Justin Patterson spent five years in Iraq as an Army sniper plus an additional two years in Afghanistan. He was sent home in 2008 after his truck was blown up and he suffered a traumatic brain injury.
"After you've gone through 50 or so IEDs, it's just you're not the same," Patterson said. "It's just like having Alzheimer's or dementia.”
Though he’s earned four Bronze Stars and three Purple Hearts for his service, Patterson now spends his time working with the Wounded Warrior Project, reported KHOU. He rides his motorcycle alongside other vets to raise awareness for those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Patterson had never heard of country music star Brantley Gilbert, but Patterson recently met him on a motorcycle ride through Southeast Texas and Louisiana. Patterson was impressed Gilbert left the comfort of his air-conditioned tour bus.
"Take the music away, he's one of the guys," Patterson said. "He fell into the pack with us.”
Gilbert spoke to his audiences several times about the trials veterans face after returning home.
"Every time we would stop, he would give a speech and raise the flag about the awareness of PTSD," Patterson said. "You know, the fact is that 22 veterans a day take their own lives. And that's just heartbreaking. I get goosebumps just talking about it. But there's just not enough help out there. You know, for this guy to take time out of his tour and put his two cents in went a long way.”
Patterson was so impressed he gave Gilbert his Purple Heart. "And the guy that's got everything, I think the only thing I could give him was my blood, sweat and tears," Patterson told a Pennsylvania radio station, reports LiftBump.
A video of the exchange (below) went viral. "I couldn't write him a country song or give him a Grammy, but to say thank you, for me it was easy," Patterson said. "It was an easy decision to pull the trigger on that."
Gilbert was choked up by Patterson’s gesture. "This thing means the world to me," the singer said. "And I found a lifelong friend named Justin Patterson.”
Image via YouTube