Saturday, May 24, 2008

Awards of the Medal of Honor

I’m going to depart from the normal topics here for just a moment, though, this might be considered a different perspective. Our soldiers, Marines and sailors have been doing an extraordinary job in the Middle East for more than five years and I’ll bet that almost no one can name any of them unless he or she has served in the war zones. If I ask the question, those named will probably be those who have achieved infamy by bringing disgrace upon themselves, the United States, and the military. The media loves these stories because those of a soldier, sailor, Marine or airman doing something positive is just too common to be considered newsworthy. Who wants to read stories of soldiers, sailors, Marines and airman doing the good they regularly do.

Part of the remedy is to publicize the heroism of these patriots and I’m inspired to do this with the announcement published today that 19-year-old Army Pfc. Ross McGinnis of Knox, Pa., will, on June 2 be awared the Medal of Honor.

According toMcGinnis the announcement, McGinnis distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in the gunner's hatch of a Humvee on Dec. 4, 2006, when a grenade sailed past him and into the truck where four other soldiers sat. He shouted a warning to the others, then jumped on the grenade that was lodged near the vehicle's radio. It detonated killing him but saving the lives of the four men in the vehicle with him.

McGinnis was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, in Schweinfurt, Germany.

His will be the fifth award of the highest medal for valor given by the United States during the latest wars. The others are in Iraq:


Corporal, United States Marine Corps

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as Rifle Squad Leader, 4th Platoon, Company K, Third Battalion, Seventh Marines (Reinforced), Regimental Combat Team 7, First Marine Division (Reinforced), on 14 April 2004. Corporal Dunham's squad was conducting a reconnaissance mission in the town of Karabilah, Iraq, when they heard rocket-propelled grenade and small arms fire erupt approximately two kilometers to the west. Corporal Dunham led his Combined Anti-Armor Team towards the engagement to provide fire support to their Battalion Commander's convoy, which had been ambushed as it was traveling to Camp Husaybah. As Corporal Dunham and his Marines advanced, they quickly began to receive enemy fire. Corporal Dunham ordered his squad to dismount their vehicles and led one of his fire teams on foot several blocks south of the ambushed convoy. Discovering seven Iraqi vehicles in a column attempting to depart, Corporal Dunham and his team stopped the vehicles to search them for weapons. As they approached the vehicles, an insurgent leaped out and attacked Corporal Dunham. Corporal Dunham wrestled the insurgent to the ground and in the ensuing struggle saw the insurgent release a grenade. Corporal Dunham immediately alerted his fellow Marines to the threat. Aware of the imminent danger and without hesitation, Corporal Dunham covered the grenade with his helmet and body, bearing the brunt of the explosion and shielding his Marines from the blast. In an ultimate and selfless act of bravery in which he was mortally wounded, he saved the lives of at least two fellow Marines. By his undaunted courage, intrepid fighting spirit, and unwavering devotion to duty, Corporal Dunham gallantly gave his life for his country, thereby reflecting great credit upon himself and upholding the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.


Master-At-Arms Second Class (Sea, Air And Land), United States Navy

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as automatic weapons gunner for Naval Special Warfare Task Group Arabian Peninsula, in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM on 29 September 2006. As a member of a combined SEAL and Iraqi Army Sniper Overwatch Element, tasked with providing early warning and stand-off protection from a rooftop in an insurgent held sector of Ar Ramadi, Iraq, Petty Officer Monsoor distinguished himself by his exceptional bravery in the face of grave danger. In the early morning, insurgents prepared to execute a coordinated attack by reconnoitering the area around the element’s position. Element snipers thwarted the enemy’s initial attempt by eliminating two insurgents. The enemy continued to assault the element, engaging them with a rocket-propelled grenade and small arms fire. As enemy activity increased, Petty Officer Monsoor took position with his machine gun between two teammates on an outcropping of the roof. While the SEALs vigilantly watched for enemy activity, an insurgent threw a hand grenade from an unseen location, which bounced off Petty Officer Monsoor’s chest and landed in front of him. Although only he could have escaped the blast, Petty Officer Monsoor chose instead to protect his teammates. Instantly and without regard for his own safety, he threw himself onto the grenade to absorb the force of the explosion with his body, saving the lives of his two teammates. By his undaunted courage, fighting spirit, and unwavering devotion to duty in the face of certain death, Petty Officer Monsoor gallantly gave his life for his country, thereby reflecting great credit upon himself and upholding the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.


Sergeant First Class, United States Army

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty: Sergeant First Class Paul R. Smith distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action with an armed enemy near Baghdad International Airport, Baghdad, Iraq on 4 April 2003. On that day, Sergeant First Class Smith was engaged in the construction of a prisoner of war holding area when his Task Force was violently attacked by a company-sized enemy force. Realizing the vulnerability of over 100 fellow soldiers, Sergeant First Class Smith quickly organized a hasty defense consisting of two platoons of soldiers, one Bradley Fighting Vehicle and three armored personnel carriers. As the fight developed, Sergeant First Class Smith braved hostile enemy fire to personally engage the enemy with hand grenades and anti-tank weapons, and organized the evacuation of three wounded soldiers from an armored personnel carrier struck by a rocket propelled grenade and a 60mm mortar round. Fearing the enemy would overrun their defenses, Sergeant First Class Smith moved under withering enemy fire to man a .50 caliber machine gun mounted on a damaged armored personnel carrier. In total disregard for his own life, he maintained his exposed position in order to engage the attacking enemy force. During this action, he was mortally wounded. His courageous actions helped defeat the enemy attack, and resulted in as many as 50 enemy soldiers killed, while allowing the safe withdrawal of numerous wounded soldiers. Sergeant First Class Smith’s extraordinary heroism and uncommon valor are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, the Third Infantry Division "Rock of the Marne," and the United States Army.

In Afghanistan a single Medal of Honor has been awarded and was earned by Lt. Michael P. Murphy, a Navy SEAL.

According to the citation and other battlefield reports:

On June 28, 2005, four Navy Seals, Lt. Michael P. Murphy, Sonar Technician 2nd Class Matt Axelson, Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Danny Dietz, and Petty Officer Marcus Luttrell, were inserted into the Kunar Province, Afghanistan on a counter-terrorism mission called "Operation Red Wing." Their objective was the kill or capture of a high level enemy fighter.

Before days end, nineteen men would be dead. Three of those Navy Seals on the ground would be dead, the fourth would owe his life to a brave Afghan who gave him sanctuary despite enemy demands to turn over the SEAL. A rescue helicopter, an MH-47 Chinook, carrying eight US Navy SEALs and eight Nightstalkers - members of the Army’s elite 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, would be shot down. All sixteen men perished. It is believed an enemy RPG (Rocket Propelled Grenade) downed to craft.

In the course of their mission, the four SEALs are believed to have been compromised by locals sympathetic to the enemy. The enemy immediately began to attack the four SEALs. Virtually surrounded by enemy forces, it was reported by the rescue helicopter that the SEALs put up "one hell of fight" [my words]. As it became obvious the enemy would soon over run the four men, Lt. Michael P. Murphey risk his life by leaving the safety of cover to go to higher ground and radio for help. Shot in the back and his radio now laying on the ground, Lt. Murphey picked up his radio and continued to attempt to radio for help.

Lt. Murphey, Sonar Technician 2nd Class Matt Axelson, Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Danny Dietz were all killed by enemy fire. Petty Officer Marcus Luttrell survived. He was knocked unconscious during the fighting. When he revived, he found two of his fellow SEALs dead and the third no where to found. He was rescued a couple miles away by an Afghan local who found him and hid Luttrell in his village. The brave Afghan later notified coalition forces that Luttrell was safely hidden at his village. It is reported that the villager is said to have told the enemy fighters who demanded the SEAL be given to them that the SEAL was a "guest" and "would be protected to the last member of the village!"

"By his undaunted courage, intrepid fighting spirit and inspirational devotion to his men in the face of certain death, Lt. Murphy was able to relay the position of his unit, an act that ultimately led to the rescue of Luttrell and the recovery of the remains of the three who were killed in the battle" has been awarded the Medal of Honor. The Medal was presented at a special ceremony October 22, 2007.
I hope that those of you who regularly read this blog don't mind this short report. I just think we all spent too much time attacking one another and that when someone does something extraordinary, we should recognize it.


Bob Koford said...

Bravery and selflessness should be upheld over all else, and never be forgotten!

Thank-you, as always.

starman said...

They are/were great guys but frankly I've had grave doubts about the Iraq war from the start.

Bob Koford said...

That's as may be, starman, and I have differing thoughts on this, and previous conflicts, and we are certainly in our rights to have an opinion, but it doesn't follow the intent of the post.

It was intended to remind us of those who are able to rise above the confines of our material fears, for the sake of others. Especially during this time, I think it is more than appropriate.