Cloverdale High School grad receives Purple Heart
Master Sgt. Pedro Villa, a 1983 graduate of Cloverdale High School, was recently presented with the Purple Heart at an official ceremony on Beale Air Force Base. Colonel Kevin Cavanagh, commander of the 940th Wing, made the presentation.
Villa is an employee of Union Pacific who serves in the Air Force Reserve. He also was recognized during halftime at the Sacramento Kings’ basketball game on Nov. 9, Military Appreciation Night.
Villa is an electrical superintendent assigned to the 940th Civil Engineer Squadron at Beale Air Force Base near Sacramento. He was wounded during a mortar attack on May 5 while deployed to Afghanistan.
“Master Sgt. Villa and a crew of Air Force Civil Engineers attached to the 577th Expeditionary Prime Beef Group were just finishing up the work day,” according to an official Air Force press release. “The team of 10 active duty, guard and reserve members was building a clamshell-type facility, a metal truss covered with thick tarp for use by the Army at a remote deployed location inside Afghanistan.
“Suddenly, the enemy launched the first mortar of the day, hitting the truss just overhead. A few team members were hit with shrapnel; one had to be MEDevaced out. Immediately after the initial explosion, Villa went to the bunker and administered first aid to the seriously wounded tech sergeant. Villa himself suffered a concussion and a minor shrapnel wound in the attack.”
Villa says his memory of being hit is one of extreme pain and confusion. It was very windy and dusty that particular day, and the blast kicked up even more dust.
Though he suffered a concussion when the force of the explosion threw him forward and sideways, his instinctive reaction was to get up and check on the other guys, which is exactly what he did.
Villa spent eight days in a remote military hospital, then another week recovering in his tent before being sent back out to build another similar building during his last 15 days in Afghanistan. He returned stateside in July, much to the relief of friends and family.
Villa joined the Air Force in 1984 and also served a tour in Iraq. He and his brother brother Shannon went through boot camp together, and even had bunks next to each other. “With our hair cut off,” Villa laughs, “people sometimes had a hard time telling us apart.” Shannon arrived at Lackland Air Force Base the day after he did.
His parents, Pedro Villa of Cloverdale and Katherine Villa of Geyserville, are understandably proud. Three of their four sons went into the Air Force, but Katherine says when her son was deployed to Afghanistan, “he took my heart with him.”
The concussion and some short-term memory loss have delayed Villa’s return to work as a locomotive engineer with the Union Pacific Railroad. Looking to the future, he says he wouldn’t mind being the engineer on the SMART train’s Cloverdale route one of these days.
The 940th Wing is the Air Force Reserve Command’s leading provider of command and control, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and is home to the RQ-4 Global Hawk remotely piloted aircraft. Nearly 1,200 rReservists are assigned to the 940th Wing, with five geographically separated units at Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Virginia, March Air Reserve Base in southern California, and Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.