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Purple Heart recipient recounts story of medal he never wanted to earn

Mitchell Reed would earn two Purple Hearts. The first, after the military vehicle he was driving ran over a mine. (KTUL)

TULSA, Okla. (KTUL) -- Mitchell Reed was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1967.

"And I went to Vietnam on my 21st birthday in July of 68," said Reed.

Reed's whole world was about to be turned upside down.

"I was scared. Thought, what am I getting myself into here?" said Reed.

The innocence of youth, stripped away one mission at a time.

"When you start hearing bullets going over your head, and artillery shells coming, it will put fear in you like no other," said Reed.

He would earn two Purple Hearts. The first, after the military vehicle he was driving ran over a mine.

"It didn't hurt me too bad, it just put a few pieces of shrapnel in my leg," said Reed.

But it was that second Purple Heart that really shook him up.

"The day started out like any normal day," said Reed.

He and his squad were fast asleep.

"When we heard everything break loose at about midnight," said Reed.

Reed and four other soldiers found themselves on the road, heading toward a small airstrip.

"And that's when I took the RPG grenade through my fuel tank," said Reed.

The armored vehicle he was driving burst into flames.

"And I said it's time to bail and get out of here," said Reed.

He took a bullet to the chest, piercing his lung.

Unable to move, Reed said he watched in horror as two of his friends were killed by the enemy in hand to hand combat.

"So I watched my friends die from 20 feet away," said Reed. "All I could do was lay there and watch."

Right in the middle of a hot zone, it would be hours before help would arrive.

"So I laid out there that whole night," said Reed.

Playing dead as the enemy came closer.

"The enemy got within five yards of me," said Reed.

He's still not sure how he survived.

"I really did think I was going to die," said Reed.

He says he wears his Purple Heart with pride, remembering the boy who would leave Vietnam as a man.

"I probably grew 10 years during the year that I was there," said Reed.

Given the chance, he says he'd do it all again.

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