North Las Vegas - Michael Sanzaro was a 19-year-old Marine back in 1971. His group, Gulf Company, was in a village in Vietnam in the middle of a fire fight. “Obviously, I was scared," said Sanzaro, who along with another marine picked up a wounded comrade as bullets flew.
Suddenly, Sanzaro realized he and his men were in the middle of even more danger. "I saw some rock formations and some twig formations and I saw a couple of trip wires," Sanzaro said."I jumped up and I told everybody we walked into a mine field."
Sanzaro tried to tell an officer to turn back, but it was too late. "He stepped on a pretty large booby trap," Sanzaro said.
The blast killed the other Marine and knocked Sanzaro unconscious. "I went flying. My helmet was split wide open. The whole top of it, just gone," Sanzaro said.
Sanzaro, however, didn't know he was injured so he went right back to work. "Other than the fact that my helmet was blown off, I didn't know I had traumatic brain injury. I didn't know my neck was cracked," Sanzaro said.
Decades passed. Then in 2010 Sanzaro suffered a health scare. "I had my heart attack."
Sanzaro saw a military doctor for treatment. "And they said 'well, you have traumatic brain injury,’” Aanzaro said. The doctor told sanzaro something he never expected. "They said, 'you qualify for a purple heart,’" a military decoration awarded to members wounded or killed while serving.
Sanzaro received the honor nearly 47 years later, and after a scare that could have taken his life alerted him to a much-deserved award for his valor in combat. “My life changed when i had my heart attack."