By UT3 Drew Verbis, NMCB 133 Task Force Anchor Public Affairs
Two Seabees assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 133, Task Force Anchor, were awarded the Purple Heart for wounds sustained in action while deployed to Afghanistan.
The recipients were conducting a convoy mission between forward operating bases in the Helmand Province when an improvised explosive device detonated near their vehicle on Oct.16.
“This was a near-death experience that I don’t like to talk about,” said Equipment Operator Constructionman Matthew Loper. “I pulled out my shipmate and all I can say is I’m glad we made it.”
Loper received the Purple Heart from Brig. Gen. David L. Weeks, commanding general, 411th Engineer Brigade, Joint Task Force Empire, during an award presentation at Camp Krutke, Afghanistan, Oct. 29.
“General Weeks told me this was something special,” recalled Loper. “He asked me how I was doing [and] then he said it’s an honor which will last a lifetime. It was moving.”
The second recipient, Equipment Operator Third Class Sean Neilson, received the Purple Heart while recovering from his wounds at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, Va., Oct. 30, from Rear Adm. Mark Handley, commander, First Naval Construction Division.
“We were almost to the destination,” said Neilson. “I got that feeling in my gut. I remember saying that something wasn’t right and soon after we got hit. I realized I was injured when I tried to stand up because a severe pain shot up my leg and I thought ‘what happened to my feet?’
“I’m proud to receive this award,” said Neilson. “I have a long line of military running in the family and my goal is to get my degree and become a (Naval) officer.”
“Our two heroes, along with first responding Sailors at the site, performed brilliantly,” said Commanding Officer Cmdr. Nicolas Yamodis. “Months of training before entering the theater paid off throughout these poignant, extraordinary moments that no one wants to experience, but we must be prepared for. The mettle and conviction of purpose of the entire team cannot be overstated. They are part of effecting monumental tasks in furthering the Afghanistan government, and I am proud to call them shipmates.”