Airman receives Purple Heart, finds rehabilitation through competition

Posted at 2:55 PM, Dec 26, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-26 15:55:45-05

In January of 2008, Technical Sergeant Christopher D’Angelo was on deployment with the 819th RED HORSE unit in Iraq.

"We were just going down Chicken Run Road. Funny name, but it was the most dangerous road at the time," D’Angelo said. 

D’Angelo and his team were on mission to help get equipment to another operating base. 

From his vantage point as a lead truck gunner, he noticed something was out of place.

"I saw something shine on the right side. I instantly knew exactly what it was. Before I could yell bomb or anything it blow up and hit our truck," D’Angelo said. 

The outside world thought D’Angelo was dead, but his buddies were doing everything they could to keep him alive.

"It was kind of sad. I am a normally good-humored person and I was cracking jokes. They said I was being funny. I was just coming in and out," D’Angelo said. 

He had multiple wounds and also came home with PTSD and a traumatic brain injury.

"Normal everyday people would never even know that I was injured or that I was in combat," D’Angelo said. 

D’Angelo received a Purple Heart and the Air Force Combat Action Medal for his actions on that day.

"I am honored to be among the people that have received a Purple Heart," D’Angelo said. 

But he story does not stop there. His leadership pushed him to participate in the Wounded Warrior Games.

"I gave it a try and I ended up loving it. It was a program that probably helped save my life many times," D’Angelo said. 

D’Angelo found another family through the rehabilitation of sports and working with others who had similar injuries. 

"It is amazing how sports help you recover. The competition is amazing, what it does for you mentally and physically," D’Angelo said. 

He went on to to compete for Team USA in the first-ever Invictus Games held in London. 

But one moment from their championship rugby match stands out the most.

"Just how the community came together and were helping along and cheering for us. Just looking out into the crowd and seeing everything, everything stopped at that moment," D’Angelo said. 

D’Angelo will be trying out for the 2017 Invictus Games in the next few months. 

He uses his experiences to help educate others on not only the physical wounds of war but also the invisible wounds as well.