REDDING, Calif. - The Purple Heart.
It is awarded in the name of the president and unlike any other award, no one can be recommended for it. Instead, they are entitled to it.
"The Purple Heart is a hard award to describe because the way you get it runs a wide spectrum, from a small nick to the ultimate sacrifice," said Army Capt. Perry Cloud.
Cloud was awarded the Purple Heart on Nov. 17, after he was wounded during his second tour in Afghanistan. Senator John McCain pinned the award on the 32-year-old artillery officer.
Capt. Cloud grew up in Redding and played quarterback for the Foothill Cougars during his high school years. He later went to school in Wisconsin where he worked as a cook. While going to school and working part time in a restaurant, Cloud met his wife, Amanda.
"I'm going to tell you the truth, I was working part time, I had a new pregnant wife and I had always been interested in the military," said Cloud when asked why he joined the Army. "I thought it would be a good way to support my family and do something good at the same time."
Two of Cloud's three brothers had served in the military; one as a Marine, the other in the Army, and his grandpa had served during World War Two. The military seemed a natural progression for him but like all servicemembers, he often thinks of home.
"It's hard being away. I miss my family and friends. I miss being back home."
Cloud joined the Army in 2005. He enlisted as a private soldier and worked his way to the rank of sergeant before finishing college in 2010 when he was accepted into Officer Candidate School.
"I wanted to know all sides of the Army. I wanted to be a soldier who does the work. I wanted to be a non-commissioned officer who leads the soldiers. Now I'm the officer who brings all these men together," said Cloud.
The war in Afghanistan has lasted 12 years now and Capt. Cloud has been deployed there twice. It was on his second tour of Operation Enduring Freedom that he was wounded during a nighttime rocket attack in eastern Afghanistan.
"It was a dark night and I was talking to my friend. The next thing I remember I heard a sharp pop and then I was on my back," recalled Cloud.
A 107mm rocket had exploded a mere 20 feet from where Cloud and his fellow soldiers had been sitting. With only 14 days left until he was due to return home, Capt. Cloud found himself wounded and disorientated.
"My head was ringing and I could smell gun powder. Once I regained my senses I told everyone to ‘get to cover' then I realized my leg was really cold. I reached down and it just felt slimy," said Cloud.
Cloud had taken a piece of shrapnel to his leg. He was hesitant to talk of his own actions, preferring to give credit to the men around him. But despite his wounds, he was back to work only two days later.
His unit would return to the United States less than two weeks after the attack.
"My mother and wife took it hard [his being wounded] so it was good to be going home so soon after," said Cloud.
Ultimately he thinks they made a difference during their time in Afghanistan.
"The education systems we put in place are helping the Afghan people," said Cloud. "The infrastructure we put in place will help them once we leave. It will help them sustain what we've been trying to accomplish over the years."
Perry is back in Fort Campbell, Kentucky and is about to attend the Army Officers Career Course. He plans to stay in the Army until he can retire in 11 years. He then plans on moving back to Redding. In the meantime, he is enjoying the time with his family and is grateful to his friends and family who have supported him over the years.
"I want to express my appreciation to everyone back home; I wouldn't be here without you."