Yards After Contact: Employee Shares Story for Purple Heart Day

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Mickie W., now an employee at USAA, with his family


Mickie W. still remembers waking up face down in the sand in Kuwait. His glasses were broken, and he could feel the heat of his vehicle burning nearby. He was badly injured. 


Less than a year earlier, Mickie graduated from United States Military Academy and commissioned as an infantry officer in the Army.  


“My wife and I often remember November 8, 1990, when Colin Powell, Dick Cheney and President Bush announced that my unit would be deployed,” recalls Mickie, executive director, business continuation. The following January, just after the first of the year, Mickie’s unit left for Saudi Arabia to assist in the liberation of Kuwait in the Gulf War. 


Just one day before the last official day of the ground war, Mickie and his platoon were travelling through Iraqi trench lines in a heavy brigade. It was just after 2 a.m. and Mickie was track commander on an armored vehicle known as a Bradley Fighting Vehicle. 


“The enemy was shooting at us, you could hear rounds pinging against the Bradley,” recalls Mickie. “I was looking through small slits in the turret to see what was going on around us when I saw a flash to the left side of my wingman’s vehicle. I called out, ‘contact left,’ and that’s the last thing I remember. The people on the radio said that’s the last thing they heard.” 


The next thing Mickie remembers is waking up face down in the sand, having been blown out of his vehicle. He was told that his gunner and driver had already pulled him out of the burning vehicle.  


“By the time I started to get my bearings, I tried to roll over and a medic came and started cutting away my uniform,” says Mickie. “He told me, ‘Don’t move, lieutenant, your leg is pretty messed up. There’s a lot of blood here.’ That’s the last thing you want to hear.” 


Mickie was transported to a hospital in Saudi Arabia and then another in Germany, where he was treated for a severed hamstring, among other injuries.  


“I lost four of my platoon members that day, three on my vehicle and another on my wingman’s vehicle,” recalls Mickie. “There were a lot of injuries across the platoon.” 


Sgt. David R. Grumbly, Spc. Manuel Davila, Spc. Anthony W. Kidd and Pfc. David W. Kramer were killed in the incident. 

Mickie was awarded the Purple Heart, which recognizes servicemembers killed or injured in combat. 

“The Purple Heart is one of those interesting awards,” says Mickie. “People are appreciative in a respectful way, but for those of us who earned it, it’s more bitter than sweet.”  


Four years later, due to his injury, doctors advised Mickie to find a job that would be less physically demanding. So, he found a new path in military intelligence and kept climbing.  


“The next thing you know, I’m a colonel, and it’s been 29 years,” he says. 


Mickie served a total of 36 months in combat and earned two Defense Superior Service Medals, a Legion of Merit and two Bronze Stars along the way. 


“One of my favorite football statistics is yards after contact, because it’s not about whether or not you’re going to get hit – you are going to get hit – it’s about how much you can keep moving down the field despite being hit,” he says. “Being in a war is not about not being afraid, it’s about how you manage that fear and still do what needs to be done.”