Niagara Gazette

Local News

July 7, 2014

Local vet receives Purple Heart medal

Niagara Gazette — The Niagara Falls Veterans Memorial in Hyde Park on Monday served as the backdrop for a formal ceremony honoring a Western New York man who was wounded in action while serving in Afghanistan. 

U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Niagara Falls and Buffalo, presented U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Andrew Bluhm, a Medina High School graduate and Grand Island resident, with the Purple Heart military service medal, which is awarded to soldiers who have been injured or killed in the line of duty while serving with the U.S. Armed Services.  

“Staff Sergeant Bluhm has made great sacrifices through his service and we, as a nation, are eternally grateful,” Higgins said. 

Bluhm enlisted in the army following his graduation from Medina High School in 2006. He was assigned to Company B, First Squadron, 91st Calvary Regiment, 173D Airborne Brigade Combat Team. 

During Operation Enduring Freedom, the 173rd was tasked with suppressing the Taliban and maintaining security along the rugged Afghanistan border. During his deployment, on July 27, 2007, Bluhm’s company was ambushed. Under heavy fire, his troop suffered heavy casualties including the front line leadership with both the squad leader and team leader wounded. Bluhm was acting as the gunner when his truck was hit multiple times by rocket propelled grenades knocking him unconscious. Still Bluhm carried on and did not seek immediate treatment.

It was not until his second tour of duty in Afghanistan, when alert supervisors recognized signs of Traumatic Brain Injury, and ordered Bluhm to be medevaced to Water Reed National Military Medical Center. There doctors noted a burn scar on the top of his forehead from the 2007 blast and confirmed the TBI diagnosis. Staff Sergeant Bluhm underwent nine months of rehab and treatment. He was honorably discharged in April 2013 earning multiple decorations including the Bronze Star with Valor and returned home to Western New York, however he was never formally presented with the Purple Heart for his injuries. 

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