Military News

3 years later, veteran to get Purple Heart

Looking in his rearview mirror at the man who just tried to kill him, Sgt. Paul Bumgarner thought of the son he had yet to meet.

Bumgarner, of Caldwell, had just survived a roadside bomb attack in Iraq, suffering shrapnel wounds to his hand. He was transporting the suspected bomber to a prisoner of war camp in Baghdad.

More than three years later Bumgarner, 38, will receive a Purple Heart in a ceremony at 11 a.m. today at the U.S. Army Reserve office on Fort Street in Downtown Boise.

In 2003, Bumgarner was in Iraq as a cook with an Army Reserve unit out of New Hampshire, where he was living at the time, and was also driving convoy missions.

On Oct. 9, 2003, Bumgarner was driving a 2›-ton truck in a convoy near Ramadi when he tripped a roadside bomb made up of three 155 mm explosive rounds. His flak jacket caught most of the shrapnel and he escaped with wounds to his hand.

The attack shook Bumgarner, who now has four children. His wife gave birth to a son shortly after Bumgarner left for Iraq.

Soon after the explosion, his fellow soldiers caught the suspected bomber and Bumgarner was tasked with taking the man to a prisoner of war camp. Bumgarner said it was a tense ride and "a good test of my moral strength."

"It was hard not to retaliate ... but I had to treat him with the dignity and respect that is required," he said.

No one filed the paperwork to recognize Bumgarner's injury until he visited the Veterans Affairs hospital in Boise recently. Bumgarner said when hospital officials realized he hadn't received a Purple Heart, they got to work on getting him his medal.

Bumgarner's wife is from Preston, and he is from nearby Smithfield, Utah. After he returned in 2004 from his 16-month tour, they settled in Caldwell.