U.S. Sen. Dick Lugar commemorated the 10th Anniversary of the Veterans History Project. Recently, Lugar met with Sgt. Matthew Kinsey, a Hoosier soldier injured during Operation Enduring Freedom, and his mother, Sherry Kinsey.
“I hope members of the military, veterans and their families will join me in celebrating the work of our nation’s armed forces through initiatives such as the Veterans History Project,” said Lugar. “Now in its 10th year, the Veterans History Project has collected more than 70,000 veterans’ memories, with nearly 10,000 of those from Hoosier veterans. I encourage all Hoosiers veterans to participate in this meaningful project. These memories shape the history of the United States and will continue to do so in the years to come.”
Sgt. Kinsey was injured in June during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. Concluding a night mission, Kinsey stepped on a landmine. He suffered partial amputation on the right foot and some shrapnel in the upper right arm and left leg. While undergoing multiple surgeries and therapy at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Sgt. Kinsey and his mother, Sherry, reached out to Senator Lugar and his staff.
“I commend Sgt. Kinsey for his courage and strength while serving our country in Afghanistan,” said Lugar. “In meeting with Matthew, it was remarkable how quickly he has overcome his injuries and kept in high spirits throughout his healing process. Sgt. Kinsey is a shining example of the strength and compassion of the soldiers in our military. I commend and honor those soldiers each day.”
While meeting with Lugar’s staff, Kinsey participated in a Veterans History Project interview as part of the 10th Anniversary of the project. Kinsey, a Rockville, Indiana resident, joined the Army in March of 2006 and has served two tours of duty in Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. Sgt. Kinsey was a member of the 82nd Airborne Division. Excerpts from the interview are below:
“I went to basic training at Fort Benning, which is where all infantry soldiers are trained. It’s considered one of the most intense trainings in the military, because you have to choose the guys who go in and take care of the enemy in various nations, things like that. It took me 14 weeks to graduate. Then I took a week off. Then I went to Airborne School, where I completed my 3-week course. I had five jumps, and got my Airborne Wings pinned on me. Then I reported to Fort Bragg where I joined the 82nd Airborne Division.”
“See, I look at the old World War II paratroopers, the 173rd, the guys who jumped in Vietnam; those were the real hardcore paratroopers. The guys like us nowadays, we don’t jump in combat. We’re always training for it, but those are the real heroes and the guys that we really honor with being a paratrooper in the U.S. Army; the World War II and Vietnam veterans.”
“My first tour was 15 months long. I was a brand new private. I didn’t know anything. I had never been shot at, never been blown up, never had anything explode in front of me. And your eyes get opened quickly. We were an infantry platoon so our job is to go out and find the enemy and eliminate them whatever the proper term is. And that’s what we did. The area we were in was a very unstable area, primarily Taliban controlled. And we went in and took it to them. We didn’t get showers sometimes; didn’t get a lot of food sometimes. We were limited on things, but it was an interesting experience. It was good experience for my next deployment where I was a leader on the next deployment. You learn you can’t teach what you learn in combat. There’s no substitute for experience. Some of my friends were on number four or five deployment, both in Iraq and Afghanistan. One thing when you’re going overseas, to lead men you have to have experience. And that’s one thing I learned. What I gathered from this deployment was what it was like to leave home, what it was like to live in the desert. You just learn different things on how to survive.”
“On June 2nd I was on a night mission. The mission was over actually. I was providing overwatch for the road that we were going to take home and make sure no one came in and back-laid us. A lot of the times you’ll go out on patrol the enemy will come back in and plant an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) where you just went because some guys will take the same route back and then you hit an IED and you’re in a really bad situation. So, I put my team up high on a building that we had used before and the mission was over and I got the call. I told everyone to rally on me and I’ll lead us back. Something didn’t look quite right; I kind of got a feeling. I jumped off the building and hit my laser and everything was fine. Next thing I know I take a step back to help my guys off the building and I had stepped on a land mine. I suffered partial amputation on my right foot and stuck some shrapnel in my upper right arm and left leg. So I immediately started checking on the guys. I didn’t realize that I was the one that was hit. I was more worried about the team than anybody else. My men performed exceptionally well, I’d like to say. They gave me aid quickly. They got me out of there and I’d say about fifteen to twenty minutes I was on the helicopter on my way to Kandahar Airfield.”
“I definitely plan to return to Indiana. I’m going back home. I want to go to college. I was looking at maybe Purdue University or Indiana State depending on what I decide to do. I still got a few months to figure it out. I’m also going to help coach football. I’m very excited.”
“The four years that I had in the military were awesome. It was stressful; bouncing in and out of the country, doing two deployments. I got to parachute 25 times out of an airplane. I got to shoot a lot of stuff. Every little boy’s dream: play everyday. I got to shoot machine guns, jump out of airplanes, and blow stuff up. That was fun. My favorite part I guess would be the guys. I made friends for life. Just this past weekend, some of the guys that I served with, and actually came and carried me out when I got injured and worked on me, came up this weekend and we got to see each other for the first time. I still talk to guys I did my first deployment with and just the camaraderie you have with the guys is unbelievable. You make friends for life.”
U.S. Sen. Dick Lugar meets with Sgt. Matthew Kinsey, a Hoosier soldier injured during Operation Enduring Freedom, on September 27, 2010 in his Washington, D.C. office.