Arizona Guard Soldier receives Purple Heart, reenlists

Arizona Guard Soldier receives Purple Heart, reenlists

Army Brig. Gen. William Hall, Arizona National Guard land component commander, left, presents Staff Sgt. Donald May with the book "I am the Guard" by Michael Doubler. The gift was part of May's Purple Heart ceremony, July 13. May immediately reenlisted for six years following the ceremony. (National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Macario Mora)

PHOENIX - Wounded in combat, it’s difficult to fault a service member who forgoes the opportunity to reenlist; however, for a few it strengthens their resolve to continue to serve.

 

In the Arizona Army National Guard there’s one such Soldier who raised his hand to reenlist, again, here July 13, which immediately followed his Purple Heart ceremony.

 

Staff Sgt. Donald May, an operations noncommissioned officer with the 850th Military Police Battalion, said he’s just happy to continue his service, which began 24 years ago as a Military Policeman with the U.S. Marine Corps.

 

May said he’s humbled – if not a bit uncomfortable – by all of the attention he began to receive when he found out about the award in May.

 

“He’s just being the humble guy he is,” explained Tammy May, May’s wife who’s a family readiness group volunteer for the Guard. “He needs to recognize how big of a moment this is for him.”

 

May, a Litchfield resident from Downers Grove, Illinois, said he had already logged roughly 20,000 miles while serving as a convoy leader with the 222nd Transportation Company when his M915A3 tractor trailer was struck by an IED. It was April of 2007 and the company out of Chandler, Arizona – originally Casa Grande, Arizona when May deployed – was on the back half of their deployment. The company combined for more than 4.5 million miles by the end of the deployment, according to May.

 

The convoy was traveling along Main Supply Route Tampa, Iraq, delivering much-needed supplies to units throughout the country. May said he had already completed more than 20 missions when he and his assistant driver, Sgt. Robert Buckley, heard an explosion underneath their vehicle.

               

“I was the lead vehicle commander, basically my job was to find IEDs,” May said. “We were doing logistical-package missions. We hit a 75-mile stretch of dirt, and according to (intelligence) there was really nothing going on out there. It was kind of out in the middle of nowhere. Then all I know is there was a boom, and the whole truck was on fire. That’s all I can remember.”

 

May said he remembers bits and pieces of his convoy commander and Buckley helping him out of the burning vehicle. According to documented eyewitness accounts, he fought to control the vehicle, eventually bringing it to a halt and preventing it from flipping into a drainage ditch. May has a hard time remembering those actions which likely prevented the two drivers from sustaining more serious injuries.

 

May didn’t walk away from the blast unscathed. He sustained injuries that still linger to this day. However, he completed the deployment with his unit and even managed a third deployment a few years later. And despite everything, May said he still feels he has a lot left to give to the Army.

 

“I love the Army,” May said. “For the last three years I received one-year extensions. This time I received a six-year extension, which is like ‘holy cow’ it is divine intervention. I was so sure that I was only going to get a year, especially with all of the cutbacks.”

               

May said he hopes he can stay in until he’s 60 years old, because despite all he’s accomplished in his long career he still believes he has more to offer to the Army and his fellow Soldiers. For now, May said he has plenty of challenges that await him with his new unit and he looks forward to new experiences to come.