An Oklahoma soldier who was wounded five years ago while deployed in Iraq said Tuesday he has no regrets about his service.
“I'd go back and do it again in a heartbeat,” said Jeffrey Kerchee, who was awarded the Purple Heart on the floor of the House of Representatives. “My mom wouldn't like it, but I'd do it again anytime.”
Kerchee, 33, was wounded Feb. 11, 2007, in northern Iraq while he was deployed with the Oklahoma Army National Guard.
He was awarded the medal during a joint legislative session on the floor of the House of Representatives as part of the 45th Infantry Division Appreciation Day activities at the state Capitol. About 40 past recipients of the medal were among the hundreds of soldiers and veterans who packed into chamber.
“It was overwhelming,” said Kerchee, of Edmond. “I love this state. I love the people I was deployed with. I love this country, and happy to have served.”
Kerchee, who left the military in 2010, works for flight inspection services at the Federal Aviation Administration office in Oklahoma City.
“That was the first job I got when I came back,” he said. “I feel really blessed and I appreciate it that the federal government has given me such a good opportunity.”
Those in attendance also watched as Cpl. Scott Hopper, of Stillwater, was promoted to sergeant on the House floor.
Hopper was deployed three times, including Iraq in 2006 and Afghanistan in 2011. He was wounded Sept. 12, 2011, and is being medically retired Friday. He said he just got “bumps and bruises” during his first two deployments.
“I'd do it all again,” he said.
Hopper, 41, said he will return to work as a field deputy for the Payne County sheriff's office.
The annual 45th Infantry Division and Oklahoma National Guard Appreciation Day is intended to pay tribute to the sacrifices made by all members of the 45th Infantry Division, especially during World War II and the Korean War. In recent years, the day has been expanded to include the men and women who currently serve in the Oklahoma National Guard.
Former members of the 45th Infantry (Thunderbird) Division and current members of the Oklahoma National Guard filled the House chamber.
Two widows whose husbands were killed in the line of duty or who died from wounds suffered in a combat zone were the first to be presented the Oklahoma Gold Star Medal. Legislation was passed and signed into law last year creating the Oklahoma medal and designating that it be awarded to members of the military who voluntarily performed a deed of bravery or self-sacrifice during combat occurring after Sept. 11, 2001, that resulted in their death.
Those receiving the award were Jane Horton, whose husband, Spc. Christopher D. Horton, 26, from Collinsville, was killed Sept. 9, 2011, when his unit came under attack by small arms-fire in Afghanistan, and Megan Ewy, whose husband, 2nd Lt. Jered Ewy, 33, from Edmond, was killed July 29 in Afghanistan.