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Guardsmen recognized for actions "above and beyond" in GWOT

By John Listman
National Guard Bureau

Since the Revolutionary War, when General George Washington developed the Purple Heart Badge to honor combat heroism, the American military has adopted numerous decorations to recognize those who distinguish themselves in combat situations from what is considered routine or expected performance.

During the Civil War, Congress, in order to recognize the highest extent of combat heroism an individual can achieve, usually referred to as “above and beyond the call of duty,” authorized the Medal of Honor (MOH). The MOH remained the only official decoration available for heroism in the American military until the United States entered World War I. To recognize heroism not reaching the level required for the MOH, the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) was created by Congress in 1918.

Soon after the first American forces entered combat in the spring of 1918, the Army leadership realized that many men performed acts of bravery under fire not rising to the standards set for the MOH or DSC. As had been done in past wars, the only way available to recognize these men was to note their gallantry as a citation published in orders, what the British often refer to as being “mentioned in dispatches.” But this was found to be unsatisfactory as it left no visible way to identify the demonstrated courage of the man.

To remedy this situation, Congress authorized the Army in July 9, 1918, to issue to those men qualified for a lesser decoration for valor a 3/16-inch, five-pointed, Silver Star to be affixed to the campaign ribbon. During the war, out of two million Soldiers serving in France, 94 MOHs and over 6,000 DSCs were awarded along with more than 20,000 Silver Star pins.

In 1932 Congress revisited the military awards system and made several changes. The Silver Star Medal (SSM) was designed to replace the former pin award. The new SSM consisted of a five-pointed bronze star medal suspended on a red, white and blue ribbon. On the face it contains in its center a silver star of the same size as those available during the war. On the reverse it is inscribed “For Gallantry in Action.”

Thousands of SSMs were awarded starting with World War II, through the Korean, Vietnam, and first Gulf War. Since the start of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) in Afghanistan in 2001 and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) in 2003, at least 20 Guardmembers have earned the medal. One has earned the DSC.

These are their stories, taken from their official citations, after-action reports and press accounts. The units cited with the name are the members’ Guard unit at the time of mobilization or voluntary entry on active duty, not necessarily the unit they were with when they earned the medal.

We are proud to honor these Guardmembers for their dedicated service to their states and nation. And we are especially mindful that five of these Guardsmen died in the course of earning this honor. Their pictures are highlighted with a golden border.

 

Staff Sgt. Timothy F. NeinStaff Sgt. Timothy F. Nein617th Military Police Company, Kentucky National Guard

Nein, along with other unit members, distinguished himself in action on March 20, 2005. A three-vehicle, squad-sized element of his company was escorting a convoy of 30 trucks driven by civilian contractors along Alternate Supply Route Detroit, Iraq. The convoy was attacked by 50 enemy fighters, using rocket-propelled grenades, heavy machine guns and small arms. Most of the enemy was concealed in an irrigation ditch and orchard, making them difficult to engage. The initial attack disabled the lead truck of the convoy, blocking the rest in the kill zone. Nein had members of his squad move forward to outflank them on the right side. Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester ordered her Humvee gunner to place covering fire on the enemy positions.

Hester then moved her vehicle to a flanking position and dismounted, ordering her gunner to continue his fire into the orchard, adding hers to the battle. Using her M4 carbine with an attached grenade launcher, she fired grenades into the field. While this was happening, Nein, noting an insurgent behind a 10-foot embankment, threw a grenade, killing him. He then moved forward to the right side of the berm, followed by Hester. Nein quickly engaged and eliminated five enemy fighters. As they proceeded along the embankment, they both continued to take out insurgents, with Hester killing three. Once they reached the end of the trench, Nein called a cease fire.

In total, this action resulted in 27 enemy fighters killed and seven captured (six of them wounded). While the squad suffered at least four serious casualties, none died from their wounds.

A National Guard Bureau Heritage Series painting of this action "Raven 42"

Sgt. 1st Class Joshua D. BettenSgt. 1st Class Joshua D. Bettenompany A, 3rd Battalion, 20th Special Forces Group, Florida National Guard

On March 5, 2004, Betten along with fellow unit member Sgt. 1st Class Andrew Lewis, departed their fire base on the border of Afghanistan for a planned six-day, two-man sniper/observer mission to provide early-warning to the base and interdict enemy infiltration. The two men prepared a night position about 1,600 meters from the base. Soon they were engaged by a large force of the enemy moving on their position. Lewis fired a claymore mine set to cover their position, eliminating one attacker and then shot a second one with his pistol.

Simultaneously, Betten opened fire on other enemy soldiers, putting three down. The team was quickly under fire from two sides and they were forced to cover each other as one reloaded and the other one fired. At one point enemy soldiers were so close that Lewis threw three grenades, finally breaking up the direct attack, though they remained under constant rifle fire. Lewis was in constant communication with their base. They were told it would be 10 minutes before a relief force could arrive.

When the two Soldiers tried to move to a less exposed position, they came under machine gun fire from two directions. After expending all their rifle ammunition and with only their pistols, the two men slid about 500 meters down a canyon cliff where they found cover while waiting for the relief force composed of other Special Forces members and Afghan soldiers.

Once rescued, their report made it obvious that a large (at least 30-man) enemy force was massing to attack the base. But the quick and determined actions of these two Soldiers gave enough advanced warning that the base was spared an attack. Both men defended not only each other, but all of the men in the base by their quick and effective actions, and each was awarded the Silver Star for their bravery and quick response in the face of an overwhelming enemy assault.

Sgt. Russell L. CollierSgt. Russell L. CollierBattery A, 1st Battalion, 206th Field Artillery, Arkansas National Guard

Collier volunteered for duty in Iraq and was assigned as a medic to the 103rd Field Artillery Brigade, Rhode Island Army Guard. His citation read: “For gallantry in action against an enemy of the United States on Oct. 30, 2004, in the vicinity of Taji, Iraq. With his squad leader seriously wounded, Collier advanced under enemy fire in order to render aid. His unselfish actions under fire led to his own mortal wounds. By his outstanding bravery and courage, he served to inspire all who observed him and upheld the highest traditions of the 39th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, and the U.S. Army.” In addition to his Silver Star, Collier also was awarded a posthumous Purple Heart.

Spc. Richard A. GhentSpc. Richard A. Ghent1st Battalion, 172nd Armor, New Hampshire National Guard

While assigned as Humvee gunner in 1st Battalion,172nd Armor, New Hampshire National Guard, Ghent’s convoy came under enemy attack with several grenades. He was the first to notice the dismounted attack on a bridge and subsequently alerted the crew when he yelled, "grenade!" The attack killed one crewman and wounded another along with Ghent, who was thrown from the vehicle. At first stunned, he quickly regained his senses and charged the enemy across open ground, driving them back. He then held his ground, expending all his ammunition before being relieved. Besides receiving the Silver Star, Ghent was also awarded a Purple Heart for his wounds.

Spc. Jason HarringtonSpc. Jason HarringtonCompany A, 1st Battalion, 172nd Armor, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, Pennsylvania National Guard

As a member of a long range surveillance and sniper team on Sept. 19, 2005, three of Harrington’s platoon members, including his platoon leader, were killed after being attacked with an improvised explosive device (IED). Harrington immediately volunteered to be part of a reaction force to respond. Along with another platoon, he left his base and moved into a known high-threat area. As the two Humvees in his group were moving to the scene, his vehicle was struck with an IED, tearing off the front of it. Disoriented from the explosion, not knowing the extent of his own injuries at the time and suffering from a possible concussion, Harrington’s training took over. First, he physically checked the crew in his Humvee for injuries. Next, he exited the destroyed vehicle and began to engage the enemy positions exposing him to small arms fire. The platoon sergeant hooked a tow strap to Harrington’s vehicle and began to pull it away from enemy fire when both Humvees were struck by a second IED, knocking the platoon sergeant out of the vehicle. Harrington helped a medic begin first aid on the wounded platoon sergeant.

With the two Humvees now disabled and without communications, Harrington grabbed a radio out of his bag and established communications with headquarters. After the recovery effort was completed, he again assumed additional risk to himself by helping to sweep the unsecured area for insurgents.

Sgt. Leigh Ann HesterSgt. Leigh Ann Hester617th Military Police Company, Kentucky National Guard

Hester, along with others, distinguished herself in action on March 20, 2005. A three-vehicle, squad-sized element of her company was escorting a convoy of 30 trucks driven by civilian contractors along Alternate Supply Route Detroit, Iraq. The convoy was attacked by 50 enemy fighters, using rocket-propelled grenades, heavy machine guns and small arms. Most of the enemy was concealed in an irrigation ditch and orchard, making them difficult to engage. The initial attack disabled the lead truck of the convoy, blocking the rest in the kill zone. Staff Sgt. Timothy F. Nein had members of his squad move forward to outflank them on the right side. Hester ordered her Humvee gunner to place covering fire on the enemy positions.

Hester then moved her vehicle to a flanking position and dismounted, ordering her gunner to continue his fire into the orchard, adding hers to the battle. Using her M4 carbine with an attached grenade launcher, she fired grenades into the field. While this was happening, Nein, noting an insurgent behind a 10-foot embankment, threw a grenade, killing him. He then moved forward to the right side of the berm, followed by Hester. Nein quickly engaged and eliminated five enemy fighters. As they proceeded along the embankment, they both continued to take out insurgents, with Hester killing three. Once they reached the end of the trench, Nein called a cease fire.

In total, this action resulted in 27 enemy fighters killed and seven captured (six of them wounded). While the squad suffered at least four serious casualties, none died from their wounds.

A National Guard Bureau Heritage Series painting of this action “Raven 42”.

Note: Hester is the first woman since World War II awarded the Silver Star and the first ever to receive the medal for direct actions against an enemy force. A Heritage Series painting of this action and a special poster honoring her was produced by National Guard Bureau.

1st Lt. Tyler J. Jensen1st Lt. Tyler J. Jensen19th Special Forces Group, Utah National Guard

On Jan. 27, 2007, Jensen was on a combat reconnaissance patrol when his unit was ambushed by an estimated 100 enemy forces in Uruzgan province, Afghanistan. In the confusion, the Afghanis in the patrol were cut off from nearly all their American counterparts and the frightened Afghani officer in charge fled. Instinctively filling the void, Jensen stepped in, took charge and led the patrol under enemy fire to rejoin the Americans. Then when another U.S. Soldier took a small-arms round in the leg, Jensen risked his own personal safety to rescue him. He repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire to save a fellow Soldier who was wounded. "His courage, superlative combat skills and tactical leadership under overwhelming direct enemy fire were instrumental in preventing the enemy from overrunning his patrol," reads the award citation.

Spc. Gerrit KobesSpc. Gerrit KobesHeadquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 161st Infantry, Washington National Guard

Kobes, a medic serving with the 160th Infantry, California National Guard, assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division was on an escort mission to ferry Iraqi soldiers to Fallujah for an upcoming operation. On Nov. 2, 2004, their convoy was attacked by insurgents firing rocket-propelled grenades and small arms. A truck was quickly disabled, causing five Iraqi soldiers serious wounds. With the convoy blocked and enemy fire coming from several locations, Kobes, disregarding his personal safety, moved through the convoy on foot and reached the wounded men. Under covering fire from Marines trying to secure the site, Kobes began medical treatments. By the time the convoy began moving again, he had stabilized the wounded, permitting their evacuation to further medical care. One Iraqi soldier died of his wounds, but four others were saved by the dedicated actions of Kobes./p>

Sgt. 1st Class Andrew LewisSgt. 1st Class Andrew LewisCompany A, 3rd Battalion, 20th Special Forces Group, Florida National Guard

On March 5, 2004, Lewis and fellow unit member Sgt. 1st Class Joshua D. Betten, departed their fire base on the border of Afghanistan for a planned six-day, two-man sniper/observer mission to provide early-warning to the base and interdict enemy infiltration. The two men prepared a night position about 1,600 meters from the base. Soon they were engaged by a large force of the enemy moving on their position. Lewis fired a claymore mine set to cover their position, eliminating one attacker and then shot a second one with his pistol.

Simultaneously, Betten opened fire on other enemy soldiers, putting three down. The team was quickly under fire from two sides and they were forced to cover each other as one reloaded and the other one fired. At one point enemy soldiers were so close that Lewis threw three grenades, finally breaking up the direct attack, though they remained under constant rifle fire. Lewis was in constant communication with their base. They were told it would be 10 minutes before a relief force could arrive.

When the two Soldiers tried to move to a less exposed position, they came under machine gun fire from two directions. After expending all their rifle ammunition and with only their pistols, the two men slid about 500 meters down a canyon cliff where they found cover while waiting for the relief force composed of other Special Forces members and Afghan soldiers.

Once rescued, their report made it obvious that a large (at least 30-man) enemy force was massing to attack the base. But the quick and determined actions of these two Soldiers gave enough advanced warning that the base was spared an attack. Both men defended not only each other, but all of the men in the base by their quick and effective actions, and each was awarded the Silver Star for their bravery and quick response in the face of an overwhelming enemy assault.

Spc. Jose MaldonadoSpc. Jose Maldonado130th Engineer Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division Puerto Rico National Guard

While on a route clearance patrol in the Al Bayaa district in Baghdad SPC Maldonado was in a M1114, serving as a gunner for the rd Platoon Bravo Company, 130th Engineer Battalion, when his gun turret took a direct hit from a rocket propelled grenade. A second rocket propelled grenade detonated next to the M114, and the whole patrol started receiving small arms fire from all directions. Specialist Maldonado’s M240B was blown off the turret of his M1114. The dismounted members of the patrol raced to aid the wounded soldiers in SPC Maldonado’s M1114 as the insurgents continued their rain of fire. Although he was severely wounded and was bleeding profusely from his face, arms, and left hand, Specialist Maldonado grabbed his M-16, stood up and out of the damaged turret to engage several insurgents

A medic forced SPC Maldonado down, to apply a tourniquet on his upper right arm. The first tourniquet did not stop the bleeding so another tourniquet was applied. At this time, the patrol soldiers were under heavy enemy fire with a torrent of rocket propelled grenades detonating all around the patrol. The volume of enemy fire was so great the medic was forced to take immediate cover. Specialist Maldonado, hearing the intense gunfire, took action to protect his fellow soldiers. With complete disregard for his own life- threatening injuries, SPC Maldonado moved back to the gunner’s position, and with two tourniquets on his arm, he fired toward the advancing enemy insurgents. Specialist Maldonado kept firing until he was physically unable to continue fighting or firing his M-16, due to the significant loss of blood. He fell back into the M1114 to be attended to by the combat medic. Specialist Maldonado demonstrated exceptional gallantry and selflessness in the face of overwhelming enemy forces.

Staff Sgt. Chad MalmbergStaff Sgt. Chad MalmbergCompany A, 2nd Battalion, 135th Infantry, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division, Minnesota National Guard

Malmberg demonstrated “gallantry in action” while deployed to Iraq with the "Red Bulls" of the 34th. He took immediate action when his convoy was attacked just outside Baghdad on Jan. 27, 2007. Outnumbered by the enemy and trapped in an ambush for nearly an hour, he repeatedly put himself in the direct line of enemy fire to coordinate ground and air support and ensure the safety of his Soldiers. His calm leadership ultimately saved the lives of every troop in his convoy, at great risk to his own.

1st Lt. Michael J. McCartyStaff Sgt. Chad MalmbergCompany A, 2nd Battalion, 135th Infantry, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division, Minnesota National Guard

Company C, 3rd Battalion, 153rd Infantry, 39th Brigade Combat Team, Arkansas National Guard

On Nov. 20, 2004, McCarty led his platoon of 26 Soldiers during an attack by a numerically superior force against the Adhamiyahh Iraqi Police Station. Facing rocket propelled grenades, medium machine guns and small arms fire, he continually “uncovered” himself in order to acquire targets and direct fire, at one point charging and destroying an enemy machine gun team alone. His actions are responsible for saving American lives, destroying enemy forces, and preventing the capture of an Iraqi police station.

Lt. Col. Michael E. McLaughlinLt. Col. Michael E. McLaughlinBrigade Effects Coordinator, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 28th Infantry Division, Pennsylvania National Guard

On Jan. 5, 2006, while serving in Al Anbar Province, Iraq, McLaughlin was on a mission with a team to enlist recruits for the Iraqi police force. While coordinating his team’s efforts with the local people, a suicide bomber infiltrated the crowd of 300 civilians and detonated his bomb. It killed and wounded many, including McLaughlin and others from his team. When asked about his injury, McLaughlin directed treatment to his fellow Soldiers, helping to save their lives. He succumbed shortly thereafter to his wounds. He was awarded both a posthumous Silver Star and Purple Heart. McLaughlin is the highest-ranking Guardsman killed in Iraq.

Staff Sgt. Michael J. McMullenStaff Sgt. Michael J. McMullen243rd Engineer Company, Maryland National Guard

While serving as a M915 Heavy Wheeled Vehicle Operator in Iraq Dec. 24, 2005, he responded to an IED attack and saved the life of Sgt. (Randal) Divel by moving him away from a burning vehicle, extinguishing the flames on his body and protecting him when a second IED went off. McMullen received wounds which ultimately cost him his life.

Spc. Jason L. MikeSpc. Jason L. Mike617th Military Police Company, Kentucky National Guard

Mike, along with other unit members, distinguished himself in action on March 20, 2005. A three-vehicle, squad-sized element of his company was escorting a convoy of 30 trucks driven by civilian contractors along Alternate Supply Route Detroit, Iraq. The convoy was attacked by 50 enemy fighters, using rocket-propelled grenades, heavy machine guns and small arms. Most of the enemy was concealed in an irrigation ditch and orchard, making them difficult to engage. The initial attack disabled the lead truck of the convoy, blocking the rest in the kill zone.

Mike, the squad medic, was in the third military police Humvee when the action started. When the vehicle stopped, it was caught in a heavy field of fire. Mike and his two companions quickly dismounted and began returning fire. Almost immediately both of his comrades were wounded. Mike moved to the injured and dragged them to cover under their truck. So much incoming fire was impacting the area that Mike then grabbed both an M249 light machine gun and M4 rifle. By alternating fires from each weapon he engaged enemy forces on both his right and left sides. Once the threat was eliminated, he immediately began treating the wounded Soldiers. Two had life-threatening injuries. He stabilized each and prepared them for evacuation.

n total, this action resulted in 27 enemy fighters killed and seven captured (six of them wounded). While the squad suffered at least four serious casualties, none died from their wounds.

National Guard Bureau Heritage Series painting of this action “Raven 42”.

Tech. Sgt. Keary J. MillerTech. Sgt. Keary J. Miller123rd Special Tactics Squadron, Kentucky National Guard

On March 4, 2002, near Marzak, Afghanistan, Miller was the Air Force combat search and rescue team leader assigned to a force tasked to recover two servicemen evading capture in austere terrain occupied by al Qaida and Taliban forces. Shortly before landing, his helicopter received rocket-propelled grenade and small arms fire, severely disabling the aircraft, causing it to crash land. Miller and the remainder of the assault force formed a hasty defense and immediately suffered four fatalities and five critical casualties. Despite intense enemy fire, he moved throughout the battlefield, crossing open areas on numerous occasions, in order to assess and care for the wounded. As the battle drew on, he removed ammunition from the deceased and, through some of the day’s heaviest incoming fire, distributed it among the survivors. Shortly thereafter another attack erupted, killing one pararescueman and compromising the casualty collection point. Miller braved the barrage of fire in order to move the wounded to better cover. His intrepidity and skill led to the successful delivery of 10 gravely-wounded men to life-saving medical treatment and to the recovery of seven servicemen killed in action.

National Guard Bureau Heritage Series painting of this action“The Battle of Takur Ghar”.

Sgt. Robert S. PughSgt. Robert S. PughrCompany A, 1st Battalion, 155th Infantry, Mississippi National Guard

On March 2, March 2005, Pugh and another Soldier were severely wounded by an IED in Iraq. Pugh, the company medic, directed the treatment for his comrade, saving his life while Pugh died of his injuries.

Staff Sgt. Joseph ProctorStaff Sgt. Joseph Proctor638th Support Battalion (Aviation) Indiana National Guard

Some family names stretch across National Guard unit rosters back to the militia's beginnings. Prominent among those family names in Indiana is one that's synonymous with honor; the name Proctor.

Family members, friends and fellow Soldiers gathered in the atrium of the Indiana State House here Dec. 20 to pay tribute to one of Indiana's fallen, Sgt. Joseph Proctor of Whiteland, Ind. The Indiana National Guardsman was lost May 3, 2006, at Camp Ramadi, Iraq.

Gov. Mitch Daniels and Indiana National Guard Adjutant General R. Martin Umbarger presented Proctor's family with the Silver Star Medal, the third highest award for gallantry.

Among the ranks of Soldiers were three of Proctor's immediate family members: his son Joseph Jr., his brother Eddie and his nephew Bradlee. Another nephew, Eddie Jr., is still in training and was unable to attend. All enlisted in the months following the loss of Proctor.

Many years have passed since Proctor's older brother Eddie served, but soon after his brother's death, Eddie reenlisted in Joseph's unit as a Motor Transport Operator. It's a skill he brings after many years as a civilian long-haul driver.

"I heard they needed truck drivers in Iraq, and that's something I know about," said Eddie. "If I can continue what Joey started, I want to do that."

Joseph was an aviation fueler but volunteered for Military Transition Team duty in Iraq. He was embedded with a fellow Soldier into an Iraqi unit to train and mentor.

A group of Soldiers who served with Joseph traveled from New England to be with Proctor's family during the ceremony.

"We've never met, but have talked on the phone," said Sgt. Ben Hannur of Watertown, Conn. "Now, to actually meet them brings it into perspective. It's a big family, and they're close, close like we were in Iraq."

Hannur said the loss of Proctor was felt heavily, particularly among the Iraqi soldiers Proctor trained.

"Everybody knew him and he knew everybody. He made a huge impression on the Iraqis and they mourned him along with us," said Hannur. "He was the one you went to when you needed something, needed anything"

The most telling evidence of Sgt. Proctor's mettle and character can be found in the narrative of the incident that accompanied the presentation of the Silver Star:

"Sgt. Joseph E. Proctor, United States Army, distinguished himself by exhibiting exceptionally valorous conduct in the face of an enemy attack as Military Transition Team Trainer for 1st Battalion, 172nd Armor, Camp Ramadi, Iraq on 3 May 2006 during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

"Sgt. Proctor served with 1st Battalion, 1st Brigade, 7th Iraqi Division as a Military Transition Team Trainer in the Anbar Province of Iraq. This is one of the most dangerous and challenging jobs a soldier can perform.

"Previously, Sgt. Proctor was a petroleum supply specialist who volunteered from the task force support platoon. He was in almost constant danger patrolling the most violent areas of the 5 Kilo District of Tammim, often with only one other coalition force member present.

"He would spend several consecutive days at Observation Post 293, one of the most isolated areas in Ramadi. This observation post had been a target for insurgents in the Tammim area and routinely came under attack. Sgt. Proctor was on duty the afternoon of May 3rd when Observation Post 293 came under one of the fiercest attacks since its establishment. At approximately 1415 hours on May 3rd, Observation Post 293 began receiving indirect fire.

"At least four rounds landed, some within extremely close proximity and some directly on the observation post. Sgt. Proctor was in a relatively safe location at the time, inside the barracks, which was a cement structure. Cognizant of the hazards outside the barracks and without any official order to leave the safety of the building, Sgt. Proctor quickly donned his protective equipment and secured his weapon. He developed an expedient plan, left the safety of the building to assess the situation and render aid to those on security who were under attack.

"Shortly after he entered the compound, the observation post was attacked with small-arms fire. It appeared they were under a complex attack. The severity of the attack ultimately was a diversion by the enemy in its attempt to destroy the observation post with a large, powerful and deadly vehicular suicide bomb.

"A large dump truck penetrated the west gate during the complex attack and continued moving toward the center of the observation post. Sgt. Proctor immediately and aggressively stood his ground in the compound, firing over 25 rounds from his M16 into the cab of the vehicular suicide bomb. He did not waver-he did not flinch, engaging the vehicle head-on as it was moving toward him and the remaining Soldiers in the building. He killed the driver of the dump truck before the truck could enter further into the interior of the compound. The vehicular suicide bomb detonated causing significant destruction from the point of the explosion. Sgt. Proctor was mortally wounded where he made his stand against the attack.

"Sgt. Joseph Proctor saved countless lives that fateful day by stopping the driver before he could reach his objective. His actions were nothing less than heroic and embody the warrior ethos by his selfless courage. His actions are in keeping with the finest traditions of military service and reflect distinct credit upon himself, the Indiana National Guard and the United States Army."

By Sgt. Les Newport,
Indiana National Guard

1st Sgt. Kevin K. Remington1st Sgt. Kevin K. Remington957th Multi-Role Bridge Company, 142nd Combat Heavy Engineer Battalion, North Dakota National Guard

In action against enemy insurgent near Ar Ramdi, Iraq, on July 22, 2003, Remington’s actions displayed undaunted courage. He made the decision to put himself in harm’s way to save the life of a comrade. He simultaneously conducted a rescue mission, first aid, and engaging enemy fire from multiple locations, all while planning the mission’s next steps. His leadership is impeccable with the ability to inspire four Soldiers in a gun truck to drive through an ambush kill zone four separate times to save their fallen comrades.

Spc. Brian M. SheetzSpc. Brian M. SheetzCompany C, 1st Battalion, 103rd Armor, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 28th Infantry Division, Pennsylvania National Guard

On Feb. 27, 2006, Sheetz was a loader aboard an Abrams tank of the 103rd Armor patrolling Main Supply Route Michigan, nicknamed “IED Alley.” During an ambush, an enemy grenade landed inside his tank. Sheetz grabbed it and threw it out of the hatch just as it detonated, sending shrapnel into his face and hand. His valorous action was instrumental in saving the lives of three fellow crewmembers. Besides the Silver Star, he was awarded the Purple Heart for his wounds.

Staff Sgt. Emmett SpraktesStaff Sgt. Emmett SpraktesCompany C, 1-168th General Support Aviation Battalion, California National Guard

Spraktes served as the flight medic for DUSTOFF 24, 7th Squadron, 17th Cavalry regiment, alongside pilots Chief Warrant Officer 4 Brandon Erdman and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Scott St. Aubin and crew chief Staff Sgt. Thomas Gifford.

On July 17, 2009, the medical evacuation crew responded in support of 3rd Platoon, Company C, 2-12th Infantry in the middle of a complex Taliban ambush in the Watapur Valley in northern Afghanistan.

Spraktes chose to be lowered to the platoon’s position under heavy, effective enemy fire from 150 meters. While on the ground, he treated and removed five injured Soldiers from the firefight, one of which had suffered a life-threatening gunshot wound to the abdomen. Spraktes also provided suppressive gunfire in support of the platoon and redistributed his own ammunition, all while under enemy gunfire.

Spraktes then refused to be hoisted out and chose to remain in the fight to later conduct a dismounted movement out of the area with the platoon in order to continue providing aid and support. It was only after DUSTOFF 24 returned and gave Spraktes a direct order to get into the aircraft that he relented and left the area.

Had it not been for Spraktes’ selfless acts of courage, valor and assumption of risk, 3rd Platoon, Company C, 2-12th Infantry would not have been able to resume the momentum of their fight. Without question, Spraktes and DUSTOFF 24 prevented the loss of Soldiers’ lives.

Sgt. 1st Class Chad M. StephensSgt. 1st Class Chad M. StephensCompany A, 1st Battalion, 120th Infantry, 30th Infantry Brigade, North Carolina National Guard

On June 24, 2004, in Baqubah, Iraq, Stephens led his platoon in heavy contact with enemy attempting to control the city. After fighting through two ambushes, he led his platoon to a casualty collection point to treat the wounded. To evacuate the gunner of his wingman, he crossed 50 meters in open terrain while small arms impacted all around him as he ran. He mounted the turret and pulled his Soldier out of the hatch, then lowered him to the waiting medic as rounds impacted the vehicle and other Soldiers drove to safety. He returned to his vehicle under continuing fire, reorganized the platoon, and led the move to a base, fighting on as his Bradley was hit by a rocket propelled grenade and his gunner was severely wounded.

Capt. John VanlandinghamCapt. John Vanlandingham1st Battalion, 206th Field Artillery, 39th Infantry Brigade, 39th Infantry Brigade, Arkansas National Guard

On Nov. 14, 2004, Vanlandingham was serving as an Iraqi National Guard (ING) advisor when he led a convoy of about 50 ING troops from an oil refinery back to a U.S. post north of Taji, Iraq. A delay in the convoy's movement gave insurgents the chance to detonate an IED. Nearly two-dozen Iraqi troops were in each of the vehicles, which did not have protective armor. Seconds later, another IED went off near the vehicles, and several insurgents began attacking with small arms.Vanlandingham's vehicle, the convoy lead, escaped the ambush and moved to safety, but he and the troops with him immediately realized that the Iraqi soldiers were caught in the attack. The captain directed American forces to suppress the enemy fire as he made his way into a ditch and back toward the Iraqi troops. He retrieved several wounded and at least one dead Iraqi soldier along with several weapons. The Iraqi troops suffered severe injuries, and without quick medical attention, they would have likely died. After accounting for all troops, he reorganized the convoy, leading the way back to post to secure medical treatment for the wounded.

Sgt. 1st Class Mark A. WannerSgt. 1st Class Mark A. WannerCompany B, 2nd Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group, Ohio National Guard

Fighting back tears, Sgt. 1st Class Sean Clifton recounted the day he almost lost his life after being shot multiple times during a raid on a Taliban compound in eastern Afghanistan. “I’m standing here today, alive, because of the heroic and competent actions Mark performed on the night of May 31, 2009 -- Memorial Day,” Clifton said. The previous week, Clifton and his team had received word that a known Taliban leader would soon be meeting with about a half dozen Taliban fighters at a known location in a nearby village.

After waiting for five days with what Wanner referred to as “tactical patience,” the team received word that their target was in position. It had been training with their Afghan counterparts for nearly five months and the plan was to allow the Afghans to take the lead and follow shortly behind. But when the team approached the village, the Afghans were already in trouble and the situation was deteriorating quickly.

They had expected five or six Taliban fighters, but there were at least 30. They reacted immediately. “I led some guys into a doorway and that just happened to be the room that had 80 percent of the threat,” Clifton said. “I knew something wasn’t quite right. Then I got hit.” Clifton had taken at least four rounds. The first entered his pelvis just below his body armor, the second impacted the chest plate of his body armor, the third shattered his left forearm and the last round hit his helmet, knocking off his night vision goggles.

When he saw his arm and realized his rifle had dropped down in front of him, he knew he was in trouble. He headed back out and almost immediately ran into Sgt. 1st Class Matt Scheaffer, a team medic. Wanner, the team’s senior medic, realizing Clifton was hit, immediately ran to assist Scheaffer. Rounds splashed the ground around them as they began working on their wounded comrade. Realizing the danger to their patient, they quickly drug him around to what they assumed was the safer side of the building. As the two medics continued to work on Clifton, Wanner began to realize the extent of his wounds. He knew they couldn’t move their patient unless they had a stretcher, so ran to the vehicle to retrieve one.

As he returned, they began receiving fire from a window about 15 feet away, forcing them to press up against the wall of the building. As he continued to work on Clifton, Wanner coordinated suppressing fire on the window and told Scheaffer to grab the fragmentation grenade. Wanner kept on the back of his body armor and toss it into the room from which they were taking fire. The tactic worked. It subdued the enemy long enough for them to race Clifton to a vehicle for evacuation.

Wanner continued to provide life-saving care as they bounced across the desert to a medical evacuation site, avoiding the main routes they knew to be laced with roadside bombs. When the medical evacuation helicopters arrived, Wanner boarded the one carrying his Soldier-turned-patient and didn’t leave his side until Clifton was transported to the U.S. Army hospital at Landstuhl, Germany, three days later. “He was there every step of the way, ensuring I was receiving the best possible care,” Clifton said.

“He assisted the flight surgeon in the medevac, the trauma surgeons in the (operating room) and even helped out a wounded Soldier that lay next to me. That’s Mark … always going over and above the call of duty.”

Tech. Sgt. Kevin WhalenTech. Sgt. Kevin WhalenTactical Air Control Party, 116th Air Support Operations Squadron, Washington National Guard

On July 19, 2003, Whalen, while attached to the Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha 344, was involved in a fire fight with Taliban and al Qaida forces in the Gayan Valley. The lead vehicle of a convoy, comprised of Afghan Military Forces, was struck by small arms fire, critically wounding one soldier and forcing the convoy to stall in the kill zone. Whalen immediately returned fire with his automatic grenade launcher. He elected to remain on the weapon system to allow his team members and the Afghan troops to secure covered positions. He continued to engage enemy positions until his weapon malfunctioned due to hits from the enemy. He received a wound to his left arm and abdomen while repairing his weapon. He recovered his radio and requested immediate close air support while attempting to stop his own bleeding. Two Marine Corps Harrier jets came to the team’s defense. However, the Afghan troops had now reached the attackers and were in close proximity. Although wounded and fighting off the effects of oncoming shock, he retained the presence of mind to restrict the Harriers to “guns only” while engaging fortified enemy positions along the ridgeline. The team was able to recover the disabled vehicle and exit the kill zone. He insisted that the other wounded be evacuated first and retained control of the supporting aircraft until he received medical evacuation himself. Displaying tenacity, he refused to stay in the hospital and returned to his team 48 hours later and continued combat missions.

Sgt. Matthew ZedwickSgt. Matthew ZedwickCompany B, 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry, 41st Brigade Combat Team, Oregon National Guard

In June 2004, Zedwick was the driver of a Humvee when an IED exploded near Taji, Iraq, which took the life of its gunner and seriously wounded his truck commander. Zedwick returned enemy fire during the ensuing firefight, after pulling his commander to safety. He returned to the vehicle to check on the condition of his gunner, Spc. Eric McKinley. Unable to save him, he then retrieved sensitive items from the vehicle and returned to his commander, where he used his body to shield him. He continued to return fire until a medivac helicopter reached the scene.

  • Staff Sgt. Timothy F. Nein
    617th Military Police Company
    Kentucky National Guard (DSC)
  • Sgt. 1st Class Joshua D. Betten
    Company A, 3rd Battalion, 20th Special Forces Group
    Florida National Guard
  • Sgt. Russell L. Collier
    Battery A, 1st Battalion, 206th Field Artillery
    Arkansas National Guard
  • Spc. Richard A. Ghent
    1st Battalion, 172nd Armor
    New Hampshire National Guard
  • Spc. Jason Harrington
    Company A, 1st Battalion, 172nd Armor, 2nd Brigade Combat Team
    Pennsylvania National Guard
  • Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester
    617th Military Police Company
    Kentucky National Guard
  • 1st Lt. Tyler J. Jensen
    19th Special Forces Group
    Utah National Guard
  • Spc. Gerrit Kobes
    Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 161st Infantry
    Washington National Guard
  • Sgt. 1st Class Andrew Lewis
    Company A, 3rd Battalion, 20th Special Forces Group
    Florida National Guard
  • Spc. Jose Maldonado
    130th Engineer Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division
    Puerto Rico National Guard
  • Staff Sgt. Chad Malmberg
    Company A, 2nd Battalion, 135th Infantry, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division
    Minnesota National Guard
  • 1st Lt. Michael J. McCarty
    Company C, 3rd Battalion, 153rd Infantry, 39th Brigade Combat Team
    Arkansas National Guard
  • Lt. Col. Michael E. McLaughlin
    Brigade Effects Coordinator, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 28th Infantry Division
    Pennsylvania National Guard
  • Staff Sgt. Michael J. McMullen
    243rd Engineer Company
    Maryland National Guard
  • Spc. Jason L. Mike
    617th Military Police Company
    Kentucky National Guard
  • Tech. Sgt. Keary J. Miller
    123rd Special Tactics Squadron
    Kentucky National Guard
  • Sgt. Robert S. Pugh
    Company A, 1st Battalion, 155th Infantry
    Mississippi National Guard
  • Staff Sgt. Joseph Proctor
    638th Support Battalion (Aviation)
    Indiana National Guard
  • 1st Sgt. Kevin K. Remington
    957th Multi-Role Bridge Company, 142nd Combat Heavy Engineer Battalion
    North Dakota National Guard
  • Spc. Brian M. Sheetz
    Company C, 1st Battalion, 103rd Armor, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 28th Infantry Division
    Pennsylvania National Guard
  • Staff Sgt. Emmett Spraktes
    Company C, 1-168th General Support Aviation Battalion
    California National Guard
  • Sgt. 1st Class Chad M. Stephens
    Company A, 1st Battalion, 120th Infantry, 30th Infantry Brigade
    North Carolina National Guard
  • Capt. John Vanlandingham
    1st Battalion, 206th Field Artillery, 39th Infantry Brigade, 39th Infantry Brigade
    Arkansas National Guard
  • Sgt. 1st Class Mark A. Wanner
    Company B, 2nd Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group
    Ohio National Guard
  • Tech. Sgt. Kevin Whalen
    Tactical Air Control Party, 116th Air Support Operations Squadron
    Washington National Guard
  • Sgt. Matthew Zedwick
    Company B, 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry, 41st Brigade Combat Team
    Oregon National Guard