FORT HOOD, Texas (AP) - On April 23, 2013, then-2nd Lt. Jeffrey Meek was in a firefight with enemy combatants in Afghanistan when he took a bullet to the head.
Fortunately, he had his helmet on.
The Killeen Daily Herald reports that Army-issued helmet - credited with saving his life - was returned to Meek during a ceremony at Fort Hood on Friday.
"I was firing my rifle and my head got jolted back," said Meek, recalling that fateful day. "In the back of my mind, I was thinking, Did I just get hit?"
Meek, currently a first lieutenant with the 2nd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, was hit by a 7.62-mm bullet from an AK-47.
The impact, which damaged the helmet, gave Meek a concussion and a bloody welt on his head. He said he had to get tested at a traumatic brain injury clinic for six days before returning to duty.
"When they said I was good, I hopped on a bird (helicopter), and went back to the FOB (forward operating base)," said Meek, who earned a Purple Heart from the injury.
After the injury, the helmet was taken to the Army's Program Executive Office Soldier at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, which designs new gear for soldiers and analyzes equipment that gets damaged in combat.
After it's analyzed, "we then go look for the soldier to return the equipment," said Col. Dean Hoffman IV, a project manager for the Program Executive Office Soldier.
Hoffman presented the helmet to Meek as Meek's parents and senior 1st Cavalry leaders watched during the ceremony.
"I'm just grateful that he's alive," said his mother, Mary Meek. She and her husband traveled from Rhinelander, Wisconsin, to attend the ceremony.
Meek was in the 1st Cavalry Division's 4th Brigade Combat Team at the time of the firefight. The brigade was inactivated following its 2013 deployment.
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