Monday marked the 40th anniversary of the United States Army’s conversion to an all-volunteer force.
With that idea as a backdrop, the Army awarded two Purple Hearts to one recipient -- a rare occasion -- during a ceremony at Brook Army Medical Center.
The recipient, Army Spec. Matthew Spang, fought to hold back tears.
"I'm trying not to cry,” said Spang.
Spang was presented with one Purple Heart that contained a bronze oak leaf cluster, denoting the second Purple Heart.
The 27-year-old father of two served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan as a combat engineer. His duties required him to search for landmines and improvised explosive devices.
An IED blast in November 2011 in Afghanistan left Spang with bruises and a severe concussion.
"I knew it was severe but my first mindset was to recover as fast as I can and get back out there and do what I was supposed to do,” said Spang.
He did just that, only to be seriously wounded just weeks later.
"My vehicle got hit by an IED and it just crushed my feet and my ankles,” recalled Spang.
The injuries resulted in the loss of both of his legs below the knee.
"This young man, to have been wounded like he was in November of 2011 in the middle of the month, and literally three weeks later, to have significant wounds where he lost both of his legs, amputated below the knee, speaks quite a bit about his perseverance and commitment to the mission,” said Lt. Gen. William B Caldwell IV, commanding general of the United States Army North.
Wounded by the hands of the enemy twice within a short period, Spang’s bravery was recognized by the rare double medal ceremony.
"We cannot find any time since 9/11 that we've done a ceremony like this,” said Caldwell.
Specialist Spang has regained his ability to walk after a year and half of rehabilitation.