Somewhere in southern Afghanistan in 2019 a Marine Raider led his team, with Afghan partner forces, on a helicopter raid inside enemy-controlled territory against a Taliban defensive stronghold.
There, the master sergeant fought against more than a dozen Taliban fighters, engaging the enemy with his rifle and hand grenades, exposing himself to enemy fire multiple times to lead the assault and attempt to save an Afghan soldier, according to Marine Forces Special Operations Command.
On Friday, the Marine ― with the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion based on Camp Lejeune, North Carolina ― was awarded the Silver Star for his heroics in the intense fight.
In addition to the Silver Star, the other Marines who participated in the attack received a bevy of heroism awards including three Bronze Stars with valor and four Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals with valor.
The Marine’s name, along with the date and exact location of the attack, were not mentioned in the press release due to operational security concerns, but the Silver Star and three Bronze Stars citations give an insight into what happened during the attack.
“Under withering small aims fire, he led an assault across 30 meters of open terrain to attack an enemy bunker trading point blank gunfire with the occupants and employing hand grenades to eventually eliminate the threat,” the Marine Raider’s Silver Star citation said.
The fight continues
As the fight continued Afghan forces started to clear a nearby structure when the lead soldier shot and collapsed “helpless” in the entrance, the citation read.
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The master sergeant leapt into action, climbed to the top of the structure the Afghan forces were trying to clear and detonated a “roof charge” before jumping into the entrance where the Afghan soldier was, the citation read.
“While completely exposed to 8 barricaded fighters only a few feet away, he heroically pulled the wounded man to cover in a valiant attempt to save his life,” the citation said.
The Raider was assisted in the soldier’s recovery by a staff sergeant assigned to the 2nd Raider Battalion as a canine handler.
Immediately after the Afghan soldier was shot the remaining members of his unit retreated to safety, but the staff sergeant alone held his position only two meters from the door.
On multiple occasions the staff sergeant “exposed himself to withering enemy fire in order to engage the enemy,” the citation read.
“Later, he left his covered position again and moved within one meter of the barricaded enemy to assist in moving the wounded Afghan to safety.”
The staff sergeant was awarded a Bronze Star with valor for his heroic actions.
Two more Raiders, a critical skills operator staff sergeant and a special operations officer major, also were awarded Bronze Stars with valor for their roles in the attack.
All three Marines’ names were redacted in the citations.
During the fight the major attacked the barricaded enemy at a point where the Marines and their Afghan partners risked losing momentum, the citation read.
The major “exposed himself to point blank enemy fire and employed two fragmentation grenades that detonated less than five meters away but eliminated the threat and enabled his force to regain momentum,” the citation read.
“His leadership resulted in complete destruction of a determined enemy.”
The second Raider with a Bronze Star was awarded for his role in assaulting a bunker and a nearby building early on in the attack.
The Taliban forces were firing on the Marine from inside a bunker 30 meters away from the Marine.
The staff sergeant charge across the open field toward the bunker, throwing a fragmentation grenade threw one of the firing ports once he reached his target, the citation said.
After “suppressing the bunker” the Marine came under fire from a nearby building. With bullets landing inches away from the Marine he led an attack on the neighboring building, providing covering fire long enough for another Marine to destroy it with a shoulder-fired rocket.
The nights heroics led to the “complete destruction of a determined enemy, including three high-value enemy commanders,” the press release said ― nothing unusual for the Marine Raiders in Afghanistan, the master sergeant said.
“This is the incident we are recognizing these guys for, but this happened multiple times, with the same, if not, very similar circumstances and many of the Marines being honored today did the exact same actions and performed just as well multiple times,” the master sergeant said in the press release.
“You guys humbled me throughout the entire deployment,” he said. “It was an honor to serve with you.”