Humble Soldier receives long awaited Bronze Star, thanks to senator
By Capt. Lisa Browne Banic
WEST PALM BEACH (March 5, 2011) - Florida National Guard Master Sgt. Arthur Head waited six years and waded through layers of signatures and rejections before finally receiving a Bronze Star medal this morning at the Calloway Armory for security improvements he implemented at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan.
U.S. Senator Bill Nelson, who helped bring this to fruition, presented Head with his long-awaited star.
"We usually find out about these things from our grandchildren who pry their veterans at home... asking what they did (in the war)," explained Nelson as he shared his reason for helping Head past the bureaucratic measures that allowed Head's bronze start to fall through the cracks six years ago.
Soon after Head deployed in Afghanistan with the National Guard in 2004, he saw a desperate need for improved security throughout the airbase.
"There were literally holes in the fences and buildings," he explained, "and I didn't want us to be more vulnerable than we already were."
Over 1,000 personnel worked inside the base each day and came through those gates; those people along with Head's staff needed to have protection.
Head, 55, operations sergeant at the base, was successful at establishing the badly needed security protocols for the base and these policies remained in place after he left, which is why he was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for meritorious service.
"This is just proof that the system does work," said Head, "...although a little slow at times."
Head has served in the Florida National Guard since 1989 and was in the Marine Corps six years prior.
"Once this went to Congress, Sen. Nelson got it moving forward," said Head who hadn't met Nelson until today.
Nelson said he was glad to be there to help Head get what he deserved, albeit years after the fact.
"I'm proud to do this," Nelson said. "...I came into this because the system doesn't work as quickly as it should."
As a father of four and grandfather of four, Head comes from a military family where his brother, father, grandfather and uncles all served in the Armed Forces.
"Tomorrow's my dad's birthday and he'd be proud of this," said Head with a big smile as he explained that although his dad had passed away, he is still an inspiration to him.
Head says he has no plans to retire and hopes to stay in the National Guard as long as they will let him. Nelson said that Head is a humble man and that the Florida National Guard is fortunate to have such a patient, devoted Soldier.
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