Purple Heart recipient refuses to quit
Sgt. 1st Class Michael Labadie took shrapnel to the wrist and leg. He had a concussion. He couldn't hear out of his right ear. Still, some of his Soldiers were in worse shape, and he wouldn't quit.
Labadie and his platoon were on a patrol Nov. 17, 2011, in Afghanistan, when a homemade bomb exploded in a nearby house. Six guys were medically evacuated. Two of them are still in the hospital.
Labadie continued on after the blast.
"We couldn't afford to lose any more," he said recently at Fort Riley.
The cavalry scout and eight others with the 4th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, were presented with Purple Heart medals during an Oct. 11 ceremony.
Labadie, Sgt. Mike Morrow, Sgt. Eli Holsinger, Spc. Thomas Pfeil, Spc. Matthew Austin, Spc. Ryan Hartsock, Spc. Mark Springer, Spc. William Phillips and Spc. Alec Moran received their Purple Hearts after injuries they received during the squadron's deployment to the Zhary District of Kandahar Province, Afghanistan. The troopers returned February to Fort Riley.
Brig. Gen. Donald MacWillie, senior commander, Fort Riley, pinned a Purple Heart on each of the nine troopers and told them the award showed they could have bad days and to never forget who they were and who came before them.
Seeing a Soldier awarded a Purple Heart is a humbling experience, said Lt. Col. Scott Woodward, squadron commander, because there was a lot of emotion involved.
"For the Soldier receiving the award, it brings back vibrant memories of the day he was wounded, and, often times, the memories of his fellow Soldiers who were also killed or wounded in the same engagement," he said.
Labadie, who has served three combat deployments in his 18 years of service, said he continued to keep in touch with the Soldiers injured that day, including the two still in the hospital.
"It's pretty cool," Labadie said of receiving the Purple Heart during the ceremony. "But it would've been nice if the rest of the platoon was here."
People should know these Soldiers volunteered to serve their country, and, when called upon, they deployed and did their jobs, Woodward said.
"In accomplishing their assigned mission, these troopers courageously faced the enemy and took care of each other," Woodward said. "In return, each one of them gave a piece or pieces of their body. Some will never be 100 percent physically again, others will have physical scars, all of them will have emotional scars for life."
For the Families and other Soldiers in the unit, the ceremony was a moment of great pride and respect, Woodward said.
Several recipients' Families attended the ceremony, including Labadie's wife, Krystal, and 4-year-old daughter, Lilley. Krystal is set to give birth to their second daughter, Etta Rose.
Krystal didn't learn of her husband's injuries until months after he returned home.
"He was standing in front of me," she said. "It was OK."
Michael didn't tell his wife what happened while he was gone because she "had enough things to worry about."
Watching Michael receive his Purple Heart was a good moment for Krystal and Lilley.
"Very proud of him," Krystal said. "Always."
Article by Amanda Kim Stairrett, 1st Infantry Division Public Affairs