Felix was an Army veteran working as a Fire Fighter with Travis County when he was called to active duty with his unit in the Texas Army National Guard for deployment to Iraq. When he was wounded by sniper fire on February 10, 2005, he became the first T-Patcher of the famed 36th Infantry Division to have been awarded the Purple Heart since World War Two. This is his story.
Felix Silva, Jr. was born in Corpus Christi, Texas in 1980, and he grew up there and attended public schools through age 17. He went to Driscoll Middle School and then, after completing tenth grade at Miller High School, he enlisted in the Army. Felix entered active duty on October 27, 1997 and after Basic, he qualified as a Parachutist and went through Ranger School. He was assigned to the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, New York where he served in the Long Range Surveillance Detachment (LRSD). He completed High School by GED while in the Army, and while at Fort Drum, he made a personal decision to seek a career as a Fire Fighter. So, after serving out his three-year enlistment, Felix took his discharge in October 2000, returned home and immediately went into the Texas Army National Guard.
Meantime, home had shifted from Corpus Christi to Austin, Texas, because his parents had made that move while he had been away in the Army. In Austin, Felix served his National Guard duty with the 143rd Long Range Surveillance Detachment of the 49th Armored Division. He took training courses in the medical field and did some interim employment as a certified nurses aide and as a phlebotomist, all while pursuing his long-range goal of becoming a Fire Fighter. He graduated from the Fire Academy of Austin Community College in August 2002, and went to work with Travis County Fire Control in June 2003.
As part of a re-organization in the Texas Army National Guard, in May 2004 the 49th Armored Division was inactivated with most of its units re-designated to become a part of the 36th Infantry Division. Among those 36th Infantry Division elements was a newly structured 56th Brigade Combat Team (BCT) and in the summer of 2004 the 56th BCT was chosen to prepare for deployment to Iraq. For his part in the re-organization, Felix Silva was designated as a specialist in Company C, 2nd Battalion, 142nd Infantry and he reported for active duty on September 7, 2004 and went through training-up for deployment with the rest of the 56th BCT.
On January 1, 2005, the 2nd Battalion, 142nd Infantry deployed to Kuwait by air. After two weeks preparation time, they then moved into Iraq. Part of the mission of Company C was to provide a 12-man security force at a Radio Relay Point that was located along the road about 15 miles northwest of Nasyria. Felix Silva was part of that small independently-operating guard force protecting the facility and they moved up from Kuwait directly to the Radio Relay Point. It was situated on about an acre of space surrounded by a protective outer wall with guard towers at the corners.
On February 10, 2005, while manning one of the guard towers, Felix came under fire. He identified a lone gunman firing from a prone position on the side of the road near a bridge 200 meters away. There were numerous civilians, including children, on the bridge and along the road nearby. Felix returned fire very briefly with his Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW), firing a few short bursts into the embankment at the base of the bridge, intentionally firing only where there would be no danger to the civilian traffic, but also no chance of actually hitting his assailant. The gunman then took advantage by escaping in the crowd. It was only at that point that Felix became aware that he had been hit. A round had passed through the fleshy part of his arm and he wouldnt have known it at first except for seeing the holes through his jacket sleeve. A dust-off was called and Felix was flown out on a Black Hawk medevac helicopter to the hospital at Camp Adder on Tallil Air Force Base.
After two days hospitalization, Felix was returned to duty. However, he did not go back to the Radio Relay Point but was instead reassigned by the Company Commander (company headquarters was located at Scania between Nasyria and Baghdad). Felix remained at the Tallil base, where for the next four months he was on the gun trucks providing security for re-supply convoys and patrolling the main roads.
He went back to the Radio Relay Point in May 2005 and was there for the remainder of their tour in Iraq. In November 2005 they were relieved by the Georgia National Guard and returned back to the United States in mid-December. After two weeks back at Fort Hood, Felix Sylvia was released from active duty on January 7, 2006 and returned home to Austin.
Felix Sylvia immediately returned to work with Travis County Fire Control where he is assigned to Emergency Services District 4, Station 1 near Webberville. He also immediately joined the Military Order of the Purple Heart and affiliated with Chapter 1919.