After being injured in the Iraq War 15 years ago, U.S. Army Sergeant First Class William Montgomery was finally honored with the Purple Heart at a Veterans Day ceremony in Grand Junction on Saturday. 

“For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a soldier,” Montgomery told the 60-plus member audience comprised of family members, friends, and fellow veterans gathered at the Western Region One Source, a Colorado Department of Military and Veterans Affairs office. “For many of those who served in the Army, the war came home with us. Many are fighting within themselves. For our brothers out there struggling, you should know you’re not alone. It takes courage to ask for help.”

Montgomery lived in Craig, Colorado for seven years before deciding to relocate to Grand Junction where there are more services available at the Grand Junction Veterans Administration (VA) Medical Center. While residing in Craig, he said he’d have to drive three hours one-way for the mental health and substance abuse treatment he needed. 

Montgomery received help from the VA’s Mesa Center For Recovery substance abuse program. He was also treated for post-traumatic-stress-disorder at Fort Harrison VA Medical Center in Montana.

“The VA here was amazing for me,” Montgomery said. “I was in a bad place at the time.”

Brigadier General Laura Clellan, the 44th Adjutant General appointed by Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, attended the ceremony. Before presenting the Purple Heart to Montgomery, Clellan thanked U.S. Congresswoman Lauren Boebert (R-CO) – also in attendance – for her efforts in securing the Purple Heart for Montgomery.

“A Purple Heart means the service member has sustained injuries,” Clellan said. “The fact it took 15 years for William Montgomery, a highly dedicated soldier, should give us pause.

“William Montgomery is a model soldier, and a great American,” and the Purple Heart should have been given to him sooner, she said.

When Montgomery asked other elected officials to look at his file to see if his case was worthy of the medal, he received little response, he said. However, soon after contacting Rep. Boebert, he received a call telling him that his case had been approved.

“I had to listen three times,” in disbelief after waiting 15 years, Montgomery said. 

“When he contacted my office, we looked into it,” Boebert said. “He’d had two denials when he contacted our office. We inquired on his behalf. Within two months we got a response – typically it takes a year.

“William Montgomery faced unimaginable challenges to protect the freedom we all hold dear,” said Boebert, during the ceremony. “William is a shining example for all Americans. He put everything on the line for our nation. It’s my honor to present him with this certificate of recognition and a flag. We offer these gestures as a token of our appreciation. We thank you for your service, unwavering dedication to preserve our freedom.”

This is the second Purple Heart that Boebert has helped secure for a wounded veteran. In June, Mesa County Veterans Services Officer Lee Anthony contacted Boebert’s office asking for her help for U.S. Marine staff Sgt. Jerry Harris, who was wounded in 1968 during the Vietnam War by an artillery blast that killed two other Marines.

Montgomery enlisted in the U.S. Army as a Cavalry Scout in 1997, after graduating from high school in Spring Creek, Nevada. He reenlisted in the Army Reserves, trained as a Drill Sergeant with the 95th Infantry Division and served in Operation Enduring Freedom in Oklahoma. He extended his service for a second tour. 

Montgomery was given the Purple Heart medal for injuries he sustained June 24, 2008, while serving in Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Brigadier General Laura Clellan pins a Purple Heart medal onto U.S. Army Sergeant First Class William Montgomery, while Rep. Lauren Boebert looks on. Photo: Sharon Sullivan

After the ceremony, Boebert was asked if she continues to support Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville, of Alabama, who has blocked hundreds of military promotions to protest the Defense Department’s abortion policy.

“Sen. Tuberville has some righteous reasons; You should look into those reasons and you’ll understand more,” Boebert responded, defending his ongoing hold which, at over nine months, is drawing criticism from Republicans as well as Democrats.

Veterans’ healthcare has long been an important issue in the Third Congressional District, but it’s become more prominent politically over the last year and half, ever since Boebert’s vote against the PACT Act in March 2022. The bill, which expanded health care and disability compensation for veterans who became ill after exposure to toxic burn pits while serving overseas, became law last August.

Boebert joined 87 Republicans in voting against the bill, citing its price tag and concerns it would add to a case backlog for those already in the Veterans Affairs system, according to the Washington Examiner. Boebert’s Democratic opponent Adam Frisch, and others, like the left-leaning group Rocky Mountain Values (RMV), have criticized the congresswoman for her vote, with RMV running ads about the issue this past summer.