Lynchburg, VA - Despite being injured while saving others, Specialist Jesse Macdonald turned down a Purple Heart, because he felt that honor belonged only to the men from his platoon who made the ultimate sacrifice.
"April 23, 2007 at around 1:59p.m," Specialist Jesse Macdonald remembers it right down to the minute.
The attack hit their base in Iraq, Macdonald lost nine brothers.
"Several of them passed away doing truly heroic things. Things that cannot be described in words. Things that you don't see in the movies. Things that you really have to be there to feel what that is," Macdonald explains.
He further tried to recall the way it felt to save two men and to kill the enemy.
"I was blown up, and shot at and fired back," Macdonald remembered.
Macdonald recalls writing a letter to Danielle, the woman he was in love with back home.
"By the time you get this letter, you probably will have found out, but there was a horrible accident with two car bombs," Macdonald's letter reads."I didn't get hurt,"he continued.
Macdonald blamed his headaches on the noise and stress of war.
When he started to forget little things months later, the young soldier's traumatic brain injury was discovered by Army doctors.
To this day, migraines come on as quickly as the attack that caused them. They are a physical symptom of the war, that will not let him forget what happened.
Also reminding Macdonald of his service, a Bronze Star with Valor, his buddy's boots, and a son named for fallen combat brothers.
"I tell him all the time, you were left here, you survived, you're here so not only can Gabi have a daddy, now we have Ryen and Kael as well,"said Macdonald. "God left me here because he knew what I would become. This father and this husband and this family needs me."
Macdonald reminds himself of that every day and has a reminder for everyone else:
"Regardless of how you feel or what your situation is, you're alive and in the greatest nation is the world. There's nothing else that can beat that," Macdonald says.
Macdonald is close to receiving an Associate's Degree from Central Virginia Community College and plans to continue his studies at Lynchburg College. He'd like to work in environmental science or with other veterans who need help after they come home.