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Moffat County welcomed a Purple Heart hero home last week — a young man who finds himself humbled by those who continue to thank him for his service.
Dylan Correia, 21, came back to Northwest Colorado after over a year in Afghanistan, spending the past 16 months in Alaska. He left to become part of the military after graduating from Moffat County High School.
Correia was part of the cavalry scouts in the U.S. Army, a group that goes ahead of the main infantry units to do reconnaissance and help make a mission easier for the infantry. They come back with information such as where explosives may be or where insurgents would be able to set up to effectively fight back so that the infantry is not going in blind.
During one of his scouting missions, an Afghani trainee with Correia and his sergeant stepped on a mine, which killed the trainee and injured the other two. Correia took shrapnel from the mine in his back, but otherwise came away unscathed.
He was awarded the Purple Heart for that episode, and eventually returned to the United States from Afghanistan in May 2012, Correia said.
“I know now I appreciate more of what I had (in the U.S.)” he said. “I can’t say it’s less civilized over there, because that’s the way their society is, but it’s not as modern as we are, so you appreciate all the stuff here.”
After returning to the United States, Correia Alaska spent over a year in Alaska — a place he called beautiful, but “too damn cold” in the wintertime. He then flew back into Colorado to his joyous family.
Correia’s grandfather, Ken Davis, also served in the military and was proud of his grandson’s choice, but he was happier to have him home in one piece.
“I never prayed so much as I did for this kid,” Davis said of Correia’s time overseas. “When he walked through the gates of the airport, the first thing that came to me was, ‘Both arms, both legs, cool.’”
The return to Craig has gone well so far for Correia, who said he was concerned about remembering the layout of the town or specific street names at first. The experience of people thanking him for his service has been especially rewarding.
“I have Purple Heart license plates, so anybody who sees me, I’ve had cops pull me over to thank me,” he said. “It’s nice to be appreciated, because you know that there are people who don’t feel that way about the military.”
Davis is happy to have his “sidekick” back alongside him.
“We used to go to every Mountain Man Rendezvous, and everything I did, Dylan was my sidekick every step of the way,” Davis said.
Correia is already preparing for the next step in his life. He’ll be in Craig until January, when he will start school at Colorado Mesa University, seeking a degree in accounting and then possibly architecture.
He is excited about the possibilities of following his own path now.
“I don’t know the civilian life too well because I went to the military out of high school,” he said. “But there, everything is much more structured. Here, you can go after your dreams and your goals. I wasn’t big for sitting in a classroom in high school, but I think college can be good for anybody. You have to make that decision for yourself though, and that’s what I want right now.”
Nate Waggenspack can be reached at 970-875-1795 or email@example.com