Staff Sgt. Michael R. Guza awarded Purple Heart in ceremony at Fort Benning

Staff Sgt. Michael R. Guza was awarded the Purple Heart in a brief ceremony at Fort Benning Wednesday afternoon.

Maj. Gen. H.R. McMaster, the commander of the Maneuver Center of Excellence, made the presentation as the two stood in front of an American flag.

Guza was wounded Sept. 16, 2011, in Afghanistan during a command-detonated improvised explosive device attack.

At the time, Guza was serving with the 6th Squadron, 4th Calvary Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division and was stationed at Fort Knox.

Guza, who calls Milwaukee, Wis., home, is a cavalry scout and is currently a small group leader and instructor at the noncommissioned officers academy at Fort Benning.

Several students taking a senior leadership course at the academy were present at the ceremony on Leader Field.

The Purple Heart is awarded to any member of the Armed Forces wounded or killed in combat as a result of terrorist attacks or while serving as part of a peacekeeping force. The award was established by George Washington in 1782.

"This is the type of noncommissioned officer you want leading your men in combat," Command Sgt. Maj. Jimmy Carabello said of Guza.

While proud to receive the honor, Guza, 47, said the Purple Heart is not really the medal soldiers want. They would rather earn a Bronze Star or Silver Star.

Asked if he felt like a hero, he replied, "I was just doing my job."

Guza was wounded while on a mission to meet with local police.

The vehicle in which he was riding along the Khost-Gardez pass exploded, and he fractured his right arm and suffered a concussion.

Others in the vehicle were injured but nobody was killed.

His biggest fear, Guza said, was that the vehicle was going to roll off a cliff after the explosion, but it rolled a different way.

Guza said that when the homemade device exploded, there was a lot of brown smoke and the overwhelming smell of sulfur, and he was struck by flying gravel.

He got out of the vehicle and located a wire left by the bombers. Within two minutes Army helicopters were in the air and located the two men who were behind the attack as they rode away on motorcycles.

Asked if he felt lucky to have survived, Guza said he definitely has a "guardian angel" and that he has survived other attacks.

Guza has a wife and a daughter. He said he plans to retire from the Army in two years.

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