On July 6, Army Spc. Robert Fickett, 20, of Norridgewock, was taking U.S. Department of Defense civilians to Zabul province in Afghanistan.

The route was so dangerous that even the Afghan National Army did not want to go. About three-quarters of the way to the destination, Fickett’s armored fighting truck struck a roadside bomb and flipped over.

Fickett, with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, was knocked unconscious and suffered a severe concussion and a fractured ankle. Then three insurgents began firing.

“I refused to be air lifted out so that I could stay with my guys and help the team as we were awaiting recovery assets,” Fickett wrote in an email Monday.

The rescue crews took five days to get to his team, as they hit four roadside bombs along the same route. “It took an extreme toll on our morale to watch the recovery vehicles come and then you just see a big ball of fire and smoke in the distance and then you hear the BOOM a good 4-5 seconds later,” Fickett wrote.

Army personnel forced him to be airlifted out after three days because they suspected he had suffered a traumatic brain injury, he said.

On Saturday, Fickett was awarded the Purple Heart for the wounds he suffered that day. He was given the medal at Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Afghanistan Engineer District-South Commander Air Force Col. Benjamin Wham.

“Fickett was in the worst position possible — the turret gunner in an MRAP that rolled over — but when he got in that position he was able to react correctly and survive because he had been well trained by his leadership and he reacted according to that training,” Army Corps South District Command Sgt. Major Lorne Quebodeaux said in a statement, referring to Fickett’s mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle.

“Most of the time, you like giving soldiers medals; but the Purple Heart is one of those medals you don’t want to give, because it means a soldier was hurt,” Quebodeaux said.

Fickett said receiving the Purple Heart is a “great honor,” but “I did not come here to get medals or be recognized. I am here to do my job and get home alive.”

The Norridgewock native enlisted in the Army in June 2009, when he was 17. He finished basic training that December and volunteered to be deployed to Afghanistan in January 2011. He said he hopes to be home by Christmas.

“I absolutely miss Maine,” he said. “I’m always telling my buddies about how awesome the Maine foliage is, how awesome the cold and snowy winters are. And I always talk about how I miss eating breakfast at What’s for Supper every morning in Norridgewock. Laura (Lorette) makes the best raspberry muffins!

“How I love taking trips up to Saddleback to do some snowboarding, or just driving on the back roads of Norridgewock in the middle of a blizzard just for something to do. You can take the boy out of Maine, but you can’t take the Mainer out of the boy.”

Fickett attended Riverview Memorial School in Norridgewock his freshman and sophomore years, then transferred to Pine Tree Academy in Freeport.

His mother is Elinor Fickett, and his father and stepmother are Lincoln and Nancy Fickett, all of Norridgewock. He has three older siblings: one sister, Dawn Fickett Plourde of Skowhegan; and two brothers, Douglas Fickett of Skowhegan, and Lincoln Fickett of New Hampshire.

“So much has happened over the last year that a lot I am trying to block out. War is war and should not be taken lightly. I just can’t wait to get home, do some snowboarding, snowmobiling, and finally get to drive my truck that my brother Douglas has worked so hard on to have ready for me when I get home,” Fickett said.

George Washington established the Purple Heart medal in 1782 at Newburgh, N.Y. It originally was called the Badge of Military Merit. It is the oldest known U.S. military decoration still in use.

Erin Rhoda — 612-2368

[email protected]


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