Profile of an Owego Purple Heart Recipient

Tioga County will become a Purple Heart Recipient County soon. To prepare a Tioga County file, residents with information on Purple Heart Recipients may contact Glenn A. Warner Post 1371 Memorial Chairman Jim Raftis Sr. by email to or by calling (607) 687-4229.

Each Purple Heart Recipient will be encouraged to enroll in the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor located along NY 300 in the Town of New Windsor, N.Y.

The Purple Heart has been awarded to nearly two million brave Americans who were wounded by an instrument of war in the hands of the enemy and posthumously to the next of kin in the name of those who were killed in action or died of wounds received in action. It is specifically a combat decoration.

Here’s a profile of Owego Purple Heart Recipient Army Specialist Kyle Adam Roberts, thanks to information from his parents, Ellie and Bill Roberts of 2606 Bodle Hill Rd., Owego.

In September 2005, Specialist Roberts was deployed to Bayji, Iraq. It’s a city of about 200,000 inhabitants in northern Iraq, located 130 miles north of Baghdad. He was in the 101st Airborne, 1st Battalion 187 Airborne Infantry Regiment (Rakkasans) out of Fort Campbell, Tennessee.

Specialist Roberts was injured in the face, shoulder, and ankle when the Humvee he was driving hit an IED in February 2006. He recovered at Bayji, Iraq, Forward Operation Base. The soldier behind him, Specialist Jessie Zamora, died in the attack. Specialist Roberts returned to Fort Campbell in September 2006.

Specialist Roberts was again deployed to Iraq in October 2007 to Striker Forward Observation Base on Victory Base Complex, Iraq, near Bagdad International Airport.

His battalion did search missions looking for weapons and explosives to destroy. His unit uncovered one of the largest caches found in Iraq. He returned to Fort Campbell on Oct. 29, 2008. He was released from the Army in April 2009.

Kyle Roberts was born in Ithaca. His family moved to Indiana where he graduated from Edgewood High School in Ellettsville, Indiana. In 2000 he received a Bachelor of Science degree from Case-Western Reserve in Cleveland, Ohio, and in 2003 a Master of Science degree in Geophysics from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

After the 9/11 attacks, he decided to go into the U.S. Army, but wanted to finish his post-graduate degree first. He took the oath in Syracuse in February 2004 and was trained at Fort Benning, Ga. He was assigned to Fort Campbell with the rank of specialist and was deployed to Bayji, Iraq, where he was wounded.

Specialist Roberts was in the Army from 2004 to 2009. Back home he has been working for Weatherford International, an oil drilling company in Midland, Texas since August 2011. He is a mudder, studying rock formations that get pumped up at drilling sites in New Mexico and Western Texas.

“Rakkasans” is derived from the Japanese word for umbrella. The name was given to the 187th during its tour in occupied Japan following World War II. When a translator dealing with local Japanese dignitaries was trying to explain what their unit was trained to do (and not knowing the Japanese word for “airborne soldiers”) he used the phrase “falling down umbrella men”, or rakkasan. The name stuck and became a point of pride for the unit.