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West Valley City Journal

Cyprus High teacher awarded the Purple Heart

Nov 03, 2017 01:45PM ● By Jana Klopsch

John Angell. (Photo/John Angell)

By Ruth Hendricks | [email protected]

Many Cyprus High students know that math teacher John Angell served in the military, but their understanding of his sacrifices was greatly expanded at the school’s home football game on Friday, September 22.

Administrators at Cyprus High School worked with the Marine Corps to have Angell’s Purple Heart awarded during halftime of the game. 

Cindy Jacobsen is a crossing guard supervisor and mother-in-law to Angell. She said, “He grew up in West Jordan and resides here now. He teaches and supervises the math program at Cyprus. The Purple Heart people want the students to see that even a math teacher can serve our country and be awesome.”

“This experience with John has been life changing for our whole family,” Jacobsen said. “Over the years as we have watched him struggle with the PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and the physical pain related to his injury.”

According to Steven Powell, publications specialist with Granite schools, Angell served as infantryman, intelligence specialist and night operation section leader for the United States Marine Corps during a 10-year stint that began in 2003. He was deployed to Iraq three times between 2004 and 2008 in the 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment.

He was medically discharged in 2013 after five years of active service and five years on the Temporary Disabled Retired List due to traumatic brain injuries (TBI) sustained in service. He has since undergone five surgeries and had an electronic device implanted in his head to control the symptoms of TBI.

The Marine officer who made the presentation to Angell described how insurgents attacked an Iraqi police station in August of 2004. The U.S. Marines and Army forces became engaged in a month-long battle with insurgent militia fighting in guerrilla-style combat. 

Angell was injured during a battle which took place on August 16, 2004 in a cemetery approximately seven miles square, the largest cemetery in the Muslim world. There were at times heavy barrages of 120 mm and 82 mm mortar fire. 

“The Marines of First Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment and 7th Marine Expeditionary Unit fought intensely in defense of their brother Marines and in service of their country with honor and distinction. Their commitment to duty reflects a credit upon them, and in keeping with the highest tradition of the Marine Corps and the U.S. Naval Service,” said the Marine officer.

The award known as the Purple Heart has a history that reaches back to the waning days of the American Revolution. General George Washington, then the commander-in-chief of the Continental Army, established an award to honor enlisted men, designated as the Badge of Military Merit.

In 1931, the medal was revived and redesigned, becoming known as the Purple Heart, which exhibits a profile of George Washington on a heart with a purple background. Today the Purple Heart, per regulation, is awarded in the name of the president of the United States to any member of the armed forces who, while serving under competent authority in any capacity with one of the U.S. armed services, has been wounded or killed in combat.

“The Purple Heart medal is awarded to those service members who have bled or been injured in defense of their country and to those who have sacrificed for their brothers and sisters in arms,” said the Marine officer.

It’s difficult for Angell to talk about the award. “It is not an award that one wants, let alone brags about,” Angell said.

Angell feels that besides his time in the Marines, teaching has been the most rewarding occupation he’s had. “My time in the Marines provided me with the ability to lead, a skill that I use on a daily basis in the classroom.”

Along with his day job at Cyprus, Angell promotes health services for veterans and has appeared in videos produced by the Veterans Health Administration encouraging veterans to seek help in dealing with PTSD.

Mother-in-law Jacobsen said, “We have witnessed the changes and the hard work to get to this place that he’s in now and our hearts swell with pride and love. His family and his students give him a reason each day to be the best he can be. Our lives are so very blessed by having him and his example of courage and service in our lives.”