Kyle Beattie can’t remember the moment that earned him his Purple Heart.
Enlisted in the U.S. Army and deployed overseas, the 24-year-old soldier lost consciousness when the truck he was riding in was blown up in Baghdad, Iraq, in 2009. From there, he was told the nearest vehicle rushed him, suffering from a severe head injury and bruised ribs, to base. The next thing he knew, he woke up on a stretcher.
After completing a 1 1/2-year rehab for his traumatic brain injury, Beattie now lives in Wenatchee. He has improved memory, better balance, and less of a stutter. Yet, he still feels the damage done in his shoulders and back, struggles with arthritis, and downs medication.
Beattie said he always wanted to join the service because of family tradition. “My family has had at least one family member in every war dating back to the Civil War,” he said. “So I was like, this is a great opportunity. I’m not going to college because my grades weren’t good enough.”
By July 2008, three weeks after his high school graduation, Beattie was completing basic training. “It was quite an adjustment. You don’t get days off. You don’t get time off. I believe by regulation you only need three hours of sleep, so they can work you, and they worked us like crazy,” he said.
After basic, Beattie attended airborne school from November to December and then went to Fort Bragg, N.C., in January 2009. He began his deployment in Baghdad in March of 2009.
Beattie worked as a military policeman. He completed several missions such as route clearance security, escorting the Explosive Ordinance Device (EOD) specialists to Forward Operating Base (FOB) Shield to train the Iraqi National Army, as well as serving as a quick reaction force and responding to explosions and attacks.
“I’ve seen some absolutely ridiculous things,” said Beattie. “There was one day we set the record for calls because they kept on coming and coming, in and out, in and out. To this day I hate the sound of helicopters.”
The mission that earned him his Purple Heart was one that he considered as a “suicide mission.”
“We had to patrol the same six-mile stretch of road the same 12 hours a day for a month. So we are out there at the exact same time, the exact same route, so they knew we were going to be out there, so they were waiting to blow us up,” he said.
After the attack, Beattie said he could only do missions inside the FOB for two weeks, and then he was back out.
“They hadn’t realized the extent of my brain injury until I came back,” he said. “If you weren’t missing a limb, you’re going back out.”
Not until they finished their mission cycle and had returned to Fort Bragg in November 2009 did Beattie receive full treatment for his injuries.
He remained at the fort for four and half years, returning to live with his dad in Wenatchee in July 2013. Beattie is currently on Inactive Ready Reserve (IRR) and is attending Wenatchee Valley College with the hopes of earning a degree to allow him to work in the FBI.
However, he has already volunteered to be deployed two more times but was denied due to his injuries. Beattie said he would repeat his military experience all over again.
“Deployments are almost like a drug,” Beattie said. “It’s hard to watch your friends go back overseas. You just want to go back over because it’s so much easier. The only things you have to worry about doing overseas are eat, sleep, shower, exercise, go on missions, sometimes talk to family, and then repeat.”
According to Beattie, serving in the military has some of the biggest ups and downs. He said he has met some of his best friends and biggest enemies during his service.
“Trust me, I had a lot of fun,” Beattie said. Serving in the military “is a different way of life that is going to take you into uncomfortable situations, adjust you, and make you into someone different. I was 19 years old, thrown halfway across the states with no one that I knew. You are forced to grow up.”
Emily Cieslak is a junior at Wenatchee High School. She is the treasurer of Youth Leadership Council and the news editor for the school newspaper, The Apple Leaf. She is serving as a 2013-14 Her Campus High School ambassador and is a member of National of Honor Society.