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My nominations for the Medal of Honor

>> Friday, December 17, 2004

The Medal of Honor is the highest military honor that can be awarded to a soldier. It can only be granted to soldiers who exhibit valor in action against an enemy. The Global War on Terrorists has given our troops many opportunities to show their professionalism and courage.

1. Marine Sgt. Rafael Peralta (and here and here). On the morning of November 15, 2004, SGT Peralta was on duty in Fallujah where he and the rest of his battalion were going house to house in search of terrorists. He was the lead Marine through the door when they found 3 terrorists waiting in ambush. SGT Peralta took several rounds and the rest of the squad stepped over him to kill the terrorists, thinking he was already dead. During the fight, the terrorists threw a grenade that landed near SGT Peralta. With his remaining strength and awareness, SGT Peralta pulled the grenade under his body to shield the blast from the rest of his squad. These are the heroes that make up our military.

2. In April 4, 2003, Army Sgt. First Class Paul Ray Smith was assigned to the 11th Engineer Battalion which was ordered to the Bagdad International Airport where:

Smith used an armored combat earthmover to punch through the wall and, while wire was being laid across the corner, one of the squad's two M113s moved toward a gate on the far side of the courtyard. The driver pushed open the gate to open a field of fire, revealing between 50 and 100 enemy soldiers massed to attack. The only way out was the hole the engineers had put in the wall and the gate where the hardcore Iraqis were firing.

What happened next was equal to Audie Murphy's legendary World War II heroism. Iraqi soldiers perched in trees and a nearby tower let loose with a barrage of RPGs and there were snipers on the roof. A mortar round hit the engineers' M-113, seriously wounding three soldiers inside. Smith helped evacuate them to an aid station, which was threatened by the attack as well.

Smith promptly organized the engineers' defense, since the only thing that stood between the Iraqis and the Task Force's headquarters were about 15 to 20 engineers, mortarmen and medics. A second M113 was hit by an RPG, but was still operational. Dozens of Iraqi soldiers were charging from the gate or scaling a section of the wall, jumping into the courtyard.

Smith took over the second APC's .50-caliber machine gun and got the vehicle into a position where he could stop the Iraqis. First Sergeant Tim Campbell realized that they had to knock out the Iraqi position in the tower and after consulting with Smith, led two soldiers to take the tower. Armed only with a light machine-gun, a rifle and a pistol with one magazine, the trio advanced behind the smoke of tall grass that had caught fire from exploding ammunition.

Smith yelled for more ammunition three times during the fight, going through 400 rounds before he was hit in the head. Shortly before taking the tower and gunning down the Iraqis inside, Campbell noticed that the sound of Smith's .50-caliber had also stopped. Campbell figured Smith was just reloading again.

The medics worked on SFC Smith for 30 minutes, but he was dead.

According to the citation, his actions killed 20 to 50 Iraqis, allowing the American wounded to be evacuated, saving the aid station and headquarters (as well as possibly 100 American lives). Fellow soldiers credit Smith with thwarting the advance of well-trained, well-equipped soldiers from the Special Republican Guard, which was headed straight for the 2-7 Task Force's headquarters (Tactical Operations Center), less than a half-mile away. The battle captains, commanders and journalists huddled at the operations center were trying to protect themselves against tank fire and snipers in the nearby woods They had no idea about the possible onslaught of Republican Guard from the nearby complex.

More here and here.

3. Marine Corporal Jason Dunham served with the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines based at Camp Pendleton, California. He was commanding a checkpoint near Karbala on April 14 when a black-clad Iraqi leaped out of a car and grabbed him around the neck, according to the Marine Corps. As Dunham fought his attacker, he spotted a grenade in the Iraqi's hand. Dunham shouted a warning to other Marines rushing to his aid and covered the device with his helmet – saving two lives. Mortally wounded when grenade fragments pierced his skull, Dunham lingered for six more days before he died at a military hospital in Bethesda, Maryland with his parents at his side. More here.

These may not meet the standards quite as well, but Marine Sergeant Benjamin Edinger and Marine Sergeant Kenneth Conde deserve to be included in this list.

Other sites dedicated to listing other GWOT heroism:
Awardees For Extraordinary Heroism
Faces of Valor

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