I’ve spent most of my day having fun in the comments of today’s Load HEAT, but I’m fully cognizant that two events took place today, both of which remind us of the honor and courage, and yes, sacrifice that so many of our citizens display.
Saluting Clinton Romesha for embodying the soldier’s creed of never leaving behind a fallen comrade, President Obama on Monday bestowed the Medal of Honor on him for courageously defending a remote American outpost in eastern Afghanistan from a ferocious attack by more than 300 Taliban fighters.
During the daylong attack on Combat Outpost Keating, the president said, Mr. Romesha, a 31-year-old Army staff sergeant, now retired, showed “conspicuous gallantry” in taking out an enemy machine-gun position, calling in airstrikes that killed 30 Taliban fighters, laying down covering fire to allow three soldiers to run to safety, and scrambling through a fusillade of enemy fire to recover the bodies of fallen American soldiers.
His bravery, Mr. Obama said, helped prevent the outpost from being overrun by Taliban fighters. He was wounded in the neck, shoulder and arms by shrapnel after a rocket-propelled grenade hit a generator he was hiding behind. Eight American service members were killed in the October 2009 battle, one of the most intense of the war.
The citation for his award reads as follows:
Staff Sergeant Clinton L. Romesha distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a Section Leader with Bravo Troop, 3d Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, during combat operations against an armed enemy at Combat Outpost Keating, Kamdesh District, Nuristan Province, Afghanistan on October 3, 2009. On that morning, Staff Sergeant Romesha and his comrades awakened to an attack by an estimated 300 enemy fighters occupying the high ground on all four sides of the complex, employing concentrated fire from recoilless rifles, rocket propelled grenades, anti-aircraft machine guns, mortars and small arms fire. Staff Sergeant Romesha moved uncovered under intense enemy fire to conduct a reconnaissance of the battlefield and seek reinforcements from the barracks before returning to action with the support of an assistant gunner. Staff Sergeant Romesha took out an enemy machine gun team and, while engaging a second, the generator he was using for cover was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade, inflicting him with shrapnel wounds. Undeterred by his injuries, Staff Sergeant Romesha continued to fight and upon the arrival of another soldier to aid him and the assistant gunner, he again rushed through the exposed avenue to assemble additional soldiers. Staff Sergeant Romesha then mobilized a five-man team and returned to the fight equipped with a sniper rifle. With complete disregard for his own safety, Staff Sergeant Romesha continually exposed himself to heavy enemy fire, as he moved confidently about the battlefield engaging and destroying multiple enemy targets, including three Taliban fighters who had breached the combat outpost’s perimeter. While orchestrating a successful plan to secure and reinforce key points of the battlefield, Staff Sergeant Romesha maintained radio communication with the tactical operations center. As the enemy forces attacked with even greater ferocity, unleashing a barrage of rocket-propelled grenades and recoilless rifle rounds, Staff Sergeant Romesha identified the point of attack and directed air support to destroy over 30 enemy fighters. After receiving reports that seriously injured Soldiers were at a distant battle position, Staff Sergeant Romesha and his team provided covering fire to allow the injured Soldiers to safely reach the aid station. Upon receipt of orders to proceed to the next objective, his team pushed forward 100 meters under overwhelming enemy fire to recover and prevent the enemy fighters from taking the bodies of their fallen comrades. Staff Sergeant Romesha’s heroic actions throughout the day-long battle were critical in suppressing an enemy that had far greater numbers. His extraordinary efforts gave Bravo Troop the opportunity to regroup, reorganize and prepare for the counterattack that allowed the Troop to account for its personnel and secure Combat Outpost Keating. Staff Sergeant Romesha’s discipline and extraordinary heroism above and beyond the call of duty reflect great credit upon himself, Bravo Troop, 3d Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division and the United States Army.
Sadly, today was also a time to mourn the loss of former Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, gunned down by a man he had extended the hand of friendship and brotherhood to. Thousands turned out to Cowboys Stadium to say farewell to a man many had never met. Would that we could remember all our fallen in such a manner.
Thousands of well-wishers, including dozens of Navy SEALS, descended on Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, on Monday to remember the life of a famed Navy SEAL sniper killed at a nearby gun range on Feb. 2.
The body of Chris Kyle, author of “American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History” — an account of Kyle’s four tours in Iraq, where he said he killed at least 160 enemy combatants — lay in state on the Cowboys’ silver and blue star logo at the 50-yard line, with an American flag draped over his coffin.
The stadium, designed for the fidgety loudness of an NFL game day, instead swallowed the echoes of tributes, scripture readings and country songs dedicated to Kyle, as well as the mournful silences between.
An estimated 7,000 people attended, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry issued a statement that said, in part, “Chris Kyle was the public face of an anonymous breed of American warrior who are handed the hardest missions and assume the largest risks. Chris was among the very best at what he did, and he saved countless American lives in the process. Our state and our nation suffered a profound loss with his passing.”