After the first rocket struck about 200 yards away, Anthony Haupert and a second man knew they had to turn off the bright light illuminating a plane they had been repairing at an Afghanistan air force base.
So Haupert and Justin Wiliker ran from the C-17 plane they had been fixing and where they has taken shelter after the first rocket struck to shut off the light trailer. The moment it went dark, a second 107-millimeter rocket came in and exploded 50 yards away.
Haupert would later learn that “the shock wave blew me down and shrapnel flew over me while I was unconscious on the ground.”
Wiliker carried Haupert back to the C-17 for shelter.
Sept. 27, Haupert, 28, received the Purple Heart for the injuries he sustained in this Aug. 21, 2012 attack by Taliban militants.
“It was such a humbling experience,” he said.
The ceremony took place at the Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma, Wash., where he has been stationed for the past four years with the exception of several two-week to two-month deployments all over the world and an April to October 2012 deployment in Afghanistan.
Haupert said he and Wiliker had been working on the C-17 of the U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey because it had been damaged after striking a bird while landing at the Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan.
Around 12:30 a.m. Aug. 21, 2012, Haupert was changing out the nose radome when the first rocket struck.
According to an ABC News report, Dempsey was in his room and not hurt during the blast.
Haupert’s body was scraped up and his left anterior cruciate ligament was bruised, but the long-term effect of the attack has been severe tinnitus in his ears and headaches come and go.
“It’s constant, almost like the sound of a mosquito in your ear,” Haupert said. “It’s frustrating at times.”
There is nothing doctors can do for him and he hope is the ringing will eventually go away, but he did not lose any hearin, he said.
The best part of the ceremony was that it took place with Dempsey’s C-17 plane serving as the backdrop.
Anthony’s father Joe Haupert, Jr. of North Branch served in the Air Force from 1975 to 1979 after graduating from Spring Lake Park High School in 1974 and knows it is a big deal for the military to take an aircraft out of service for a day so it can fly to a special ceremony.
“It was unbelievable to see the physical damage,” Joe said.
Although the plane can fly, you can still see where the shrapnel hit, Anthony said.
It was a proud and bittersweet moment for Joe to see his son receive a Purple Heart because this military man knows a lot of parents get a Purple Heart in honor of their son or daughter after they are killed in action.
“It’s probably the biggest honor someone can receive, but we’re so blessed that we was able to walk up and receive it,” Joe said.
runs in the family
Joe’s father Joe Haupert, Sr. served in the Air Force from the ages of 18 to 28.
His first mission in 1948 was to fly food and other supplies to West Berlin after the Soviet Union had blockaded this area of the city in an attempt to drive out the U.S., Britain and France. This was later called the Berlin Airlift and this effort by the U.S. and its allies brought more than 2.3 million tons of cargo to West Berlin, according to The History Channel.
Anthony’s uncle Dave Haupert was in the U.S. Army from 1972 to 1974.
It was evident to the Haupert family for many years that Anthony would enlist in the Air Force.
“When he was five or six years old, my dad who was a pilot took him on an airplane and he was always fascinated with planes his whole life,” Joe, Jr. said.
After that memorable experience Anthony’s father said, “Every toy had something to do with planes from paper airplanes to model planes to remote control planes.”
After graduating from Blaine High School in 2003 when he had been living in Ham Lake, Anthony enrolled at St. Cloud State University and studied professional aeronautics. He later started dating and proposed to Ginny Nelson, a 2004 Coon Rapids High School graduate.
At their wedding reception in September 2008, Anthony announced he was going into the Air Force. After boot camp and a few months at a base in Mississippi, he was transferred to the Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington in September 2009.
Anthony and Ginny have two daughters. Amaiah is almost three years old and Ellie was born Aug. 17.
Being in the Air Force is a long-term career plan for Anthony. He will soon obtain the rank of staff sergeant and will be leaving for California in October for courses on working in satellite command and control. After completion, his family will move to Colorado.
Another honor he received April 13 was to throw out the first pitch at a Seattle Mariners’ home game,
“It was a little nerve-racking to throw a pitch in front of thousands of people,” Haupert said. “I just wanted to make sure I got the ball there and I threw a strike.”
Eric Hagen is at