"Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both." ~ Benjamin Franklin

>> Friday, September 03, 2004

18-Year-Old Army Private Earns Silver Star


These are the people that serve day-in, day-out for our freedom. I'm proud of my own service in the US Army, but I am even prouder of the servicemembers of today. This generation is the latest in a long series of heroes. We will not squander their successes or devalue their valor. I won't let it happen.

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- An 18-year-old private earned the first Silver Star medal awarded to a soldier from the 1st Cavalry Division serving in Iraq, after he helped fight off a deadly guerrilla ambush in May that killed two of his companions and wounded five.

Pfc. Christopher Fernandez, of Tucson, Ariz. received the Silver Star from the division's commander, Maj. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, on Aug. 13. The Silver Star, the military's third-highest combat medal, is given for uncommon valor in combat.

Fernandez, a Humvee machine gunner, is credited with holding a band of insurgents at bay while his companions gathered wounded and dead soldiers from a vehicle disabled by a roadside bombing. The ambush took place May 5 in west Baghdad.

One soldier that carried the dead and wounded to safety, 33-year-old Sgt. Timothy Buttz of Bloomington, Minn., was decorated with the Army's Bronze Star medal, with a special commendation for valor.

"After the (bomb) went off, I noticed their Humvee was taking fire, that's when I started shooting back," said Fernandez, a quiet, lanky man who wears glasses.

Fernandez ran out of ammunition for his M-249 machine gun. He sprinted to the disabled Humvee and grabbed a damaged M-240 heavy machine gun and dashed back to his position to continue firing. The M-240's protective hand guards had been blown off and Fernandez said he burned his hands in about 10 minutes of sustained shooting.

"I knew I had to do something. I could've gotten myself killed to do it," said Fernandez, interviewed at 1st Cavalry headquarters near Baghdad International Airport.

The two soldiers who died in the attack were 19-year-old Pfc. Bradley Kritzer, of Irvona, Penn.; and 18-year-old Spc. James Marshall, of Tulsa, Okla. Buttz said the two were unconscious in the back of the disabled Humvee, along with two of the wounded soldiers.

"I moved them from their Humvee to mine," Buttz said.

Buttz also destroyed the vehicle's sensitive radios before abandoning the damaged Humvee and driving back to their base. Kritzer and Marshall died en route, he said.

Some 32,000 soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Division are currently serving in Baghdad. Since March 2003, 124 Silver Stars and 399 Bronze Stars for valor have been awarded in the Iraq conflict, according to Pentagon figures.


1 comments:

Jody 2:49 PM  

You see so many "Support Our Troops" ribbons, etc out there.... too bad the mainstream media doesn't follow the request and print more stories like this. I suppose heroism and bravery doesn't sell as many papers.

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