By JANET METZER
The Intelligener/Wheeling News-Register
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia native Steven Warner and his engineering unit were clearing a dirt road of improvised explosive devices in April 2010 in Afghanistan when their vehicle was hit by a Taliban IED.
Almost six years later, the retired Army captain — and the son of new West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner — received his Purple Heart at the state Capitol in Charleston.
IEDs are a major threat to troops in Afghanistan. In the loose soil, insurgents can bury such a bomb underneath the soil surface and attach a wire in order to detonate it.
Steven Warner was a platoon leader assigned to the 173rd Airborne Brigade at the time of his injury. He suffered a severe concussion in the incident.
He was off-duty for a week in recovery, but eventually rejoined his platoon.
The Purple Heart is the oldest U.S. military award that is now given to those who are wounded in action, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Most soldiers get the Purple Heart when they’re in-theater, Steven Warner explained. But because he wasn’t evacuated, and stayed south of Kabul, where the accident occurred, things got delayed.
In all, Warner served seven years in the Army, earning his Ranger and Sapper tabs, Airborne wings, Pathfinder Badge and Combat Action badge, among other honors. Since leaving the Army, he’s been working on his MBA at Wharton Business School.
Meanwhile, the paperwork for the Purple Heart honor was already completed, yet Warner had yet to receive the medal. On Monday, U.S. Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., completed the process.
“It’s great that Congressman McKinley cares enough about soldiers to follow up on something like this,” Steven Warner, who is also a graduate of University High School in Morgantown, said.
Monday was an important one for the Warner family, beginning with Mac Warner’s official swearing-in as West Virginia secretary of state at 12:01 a.m. He was sworn in again, ceremonially, as part of Gov. Jim Justice’s inauguration ceremony that began at 1 p.m.
But to Mac Warner, who is an Army veteran himself, it was his son’s day.
“It’s this kind recognition of service that Vietnam veterans did not get,” Mac Warner said. “It’s nice seeing soldiers being recognized.”
The Purple Heart ceremony “was particularly moving for a number of reasons,” Mac Warner said. “First, because (Steven) told stories today about when he was hit that we haven’t heard about. He had a difficult time talking about it.”
And secondly, Warner said he was moved by the support from family and friends who came to celebrate the honor.
Steven Warner plans to graduate from Wharton in May.
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