LITTLE ROCK, AR -- There are all kinds of heroes, but some of the most dedicated and committed are members of the armed forces of the United States.
They answer our nation's call to serve and risk their lives to protect freedom and democracy, and it seems Arkansas has more than our fair share of these selfless individuals.
And they don't always see themselves as special, but they are.
"I should've died on June 21, 2004," Staff Sgt. Art Stokenbury said.
He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1993 and served in Saudi Arabia and Bosnia before deploying to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. As dangerous as patrols were, he managed to stay safe until one fateful day. While on a presence patrol in Sadr City, he and his platoon came under enemy mortar fire.
"I got up to run to a bunker, and before I got there, a mortar round hit about 15 feet away from me and of course, I got hit by that shrapnel. I shouldn't have survived, it was virtually impossible."
His armour and uniform were completely shredded and pieces of shrapnel pierced his leg, back and shoulder, some of which remain in his body. On Wednesday, he was awarded the Purple Heart.
"I kind of look back at life and think every day is a gift," Stokenbury said. "It kind of changes your perspective on things."
He still has the helmet, which he credits with saving his life. Although his wounds have healed, Stokenbury is still affected both physically and emotionally by the events of that day.
"I can't even hear a baby cry because I think of situations I went through in Iraq," he said. "It becomes part of you."
As for being considered a hero?
"I don't see myself as that," he humbly responded. "I'm just like everyone else who served over there."