In most ways, Army Capt. Alex Houston is like any other Army commander. He comes to work every day ready to lead and set the standard for the soldiers who work for him. He diligently performs all of his administrative duties as the 21st Signal Brigade Headquarters and Headquarters Company commander, and he gets down and dirty with the unit during company physical training. He jokes with his staff, and even has been known to sing off-key for them.
And he does this all as a wounded warrior. As a platoon leader in Iraq, Houston lost his left hand when his convoy was attacked during a night mission.
The electricity was going on and off while his 1st Cavalry Division unit was on patrol, Houston recalled. “It was so dark -- the kind of dark that you can't even see your hand in front of your face,” he said. As the lights flickered off, the unit's battalion commander came under fire from enemy forces. Although others were in the area, Houston said, he was trained to step up as the ranking officer on the mission, and he headed into the battle to support his commander. He took charge, and while on the radio, he also took a hit.
“There was melted metal all around my hand, and shrapnel went through my arm,” he said, “but I was still on the radio giving information to headquarters.” His duty came before the pain, he said, and his faith in God allowed him to remain calm and accomplish the mission of getting the convoy through the area. “After everyone came over to see how I was, I kept saying, ‘I'm OK.' And I was,” he said. He was rushed to the combat support hospital, and doctors later told him they couldn't save his hand. The division commander presented his Purple Heart while he was still sedated in the combat hospital. “I just said ‘Hooah,'” said Houston, “and they saw the soldier in me.”