WEST LIBERTY, Iowa -- A wounded war veteran and Purple Heart recipient is now sporting a new badge of honor as a West Liberty Reserve Officer.
On Thursday, during a dedication ceremony for the new Veteran’s Memorial area on the Muscatine County Fairgrounds, the West Liberty Police Department welcomed a highly-decorated veteran, Keyan Brown.
"I was like 'Chief, we can go into your office and you can swear me in there,'" Brown laughed. "And he's like 'No, no I want to do this."
Brown said he has dreamed of joining the military since he was just a kid, playing with G.I. Joe toy soldiers in his backyard.
"I actually had that dream accomplished," Brown said "April 19th, 2010 is when I enlisted in the United States Army."
Unfortunately for Brown, that dream was cut short just a year later while touring in Afghanistan.
"One night we actually received incoming. We received mortars, RPGs and rifles fired from three different locations at us in a complex attack," Brown said. "When I was coming back in the tent, a RPG hit about 15 feet away. Put scrap metal in me from head to toe. Picked me up and threw me about 15 feet across the tent."
That attack leaving him with a traumatic brain injury, facial and hearing damage, anxiety and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. To better cope with his trauma, Brown now leans on his service dog Galilee.
"Gali’s just been my go-to," Brown said "She’s been my helper. She’s such a blessing to me."
Brown said now he will have others to rely on as he joins a brotherhood with men who know what he has been through.
"I'm a veteran myself," said Chief Kary Kenworth of West Liberty Police. Chief Kenworth said he knows what it is like to struggle as you re-enter society.
"You went from a hostile, combat situation and now you’re expected to just blend right in and go on with your life," Chief Kenworth said.
But the West Liberty Police Department is no stranger to veterans.
"We’re a small department and five of my six (full-time) officers are veterans," Chief Kenworth said. "So it’s a big deal for us to help and support our veterans."
Chief Kenworth said departments gain a huge advantage by hiring veterans.
"At one point they signed a check payable to the United States for their life," Chief Kenworth said. "You’ve got somebody that's willing to give their life for other people and then we can bring them into our profession; it’s a huge deal."
A department, Keyan Brown said, he is humbled to be apart of.
The West Liberty Police Department is also selling a special-edition Military Appreciation police patch to benefit veterans. All proceeds will be split equally between Puppy Jake Foundation, a non-profit organization aimed at partnering veterans with service dogs, and the Patriot Guard Riders, a group that supports fallen and active veterans.
Patches can be bought for $20 at West Liberty City Hall.
Those from out of town can send a Self Addressed Stamped Envelope (SASE) with a check or money order for $20 to:
WLPD – Military Patch
409 N Calhoun Street
West Liberty, Iowa. 52776