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Who Does This Medal of Honor Belong To?

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
May 28, 2024 3:05 am

Who Does This Medal of Honor Belong To?

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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May 28, 2024 3:05 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, Sergeant Ryan Pitts earned our nation’s highest award for valor for his extraordinary actions during one of the bloodiest battles in Afghanistan. Hear him celebrate his brothers in arms, because, as he says about the Medal: “It is ours, not mine.”

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How doers get more done. And we continue with our American stories, and on this special Memorial Day edition, we remember and honor the men and women who gave their lives in service to our nation. This next story is from Afghanistan, and from one of the bloodiest battles of that war.

In July of 2008, American and Afghan forces moved into Wanat, a village in a valley in northeastern Afghanistan, to lay the foundation for economic and security improvements throughout the region. Working in brutal heat with very few supplies, the soldiers did the best they could to fortify a vehicle patrol base and a nearby observation post. They named the base in honor of their former platoon sergeant killed earlier in the year, Matthew Kaler. And they called the smaller observation post on a nearby ridge OP Topside.

Between the two positions, there were 48 U.S. service members. As the sun was barely coming up over the mountains on their fifth day, 200, possibly as many as 500 Taliban fighters launched a complex and sustained attack. The opening salvo of rocket-propelled grenades struck OP Topside, inflicting heavy casualties and knocking Sergeant Ryan Pitts to the ground. The sergeant knew that if OP Topside fell, the enemy would move in and use this fortified higher ground to rain fire on the main body of Americans below. So despite bleeding heavily from his left arm and both legs, Pitts took control of the post and returned fire. When the enemy closed in, Sergeant Pitts started cooking off grenades, holding the live explosives in his hands for several seconds so they would explode on impact and could not be thrown back.

Unable to stand and near death, he crawled to a nearby radio to call in fire support. Enemy fighters were so close that they could hear Pitts whisper into the radio. For these actions and more, Sergeant Ryan Pitts was presented our nation's highest award for valor, the Medal of Honor. Standing before a room full of other Medal of Honor recipients, here's how this proud member of 2nd Platoon, Chosen Company, 2nd Battalion Airborne, 503rd Infantry Regiment, known as The Rock, began his speech. I stand here in awe of the men I served with. It was the honor of my life to answer the call and serve our country alongside the men of Chosen Company. There were many factors that brought us together and motivated us to fight. For me, it was my love for our country and dedication to my brothers. In my combat experience, the latter is the one guiding principle that carries us through battle. It was the men to our left and right that compelled us to fight with everything we had. There was an absolute duty to be your brother's keeper, a sentiment that I think we all shared. My favorite quote that embodied our dedication is ironically captured in a brief passage from Steven Pressfield's The Afghan Campaign. It reads, Of one thing I'm certain, I will die before I let harm come to him.

The shaft that impales him must first pass through my flesh. I saw the greatest men I have ever known personify this passage, men who placed themselves between us and the enemy to protect and defend their brothers. Our fallen exemplified this most greatly as they fought to their last breaths to ensure the rest of us could return home. They are the real heroes, and it is their names you should know. Specialist Sergio Abad, Corporal Jonathan Ayers, Corporal Jason Bogar, First Lieutenant Jonathan Brostrom, Sergeant Israel Garcia, Corporal Jason Hovater, Corporal Matthew Phillips, Corporal Pruitt Rainey, and Corporal Gunners Willing.

These men and so many others displayed extraordinary acts of valor that day, and when no one man carried the fight, we did it together. Chavez was shot through both legs, helping pull a mortally wounded Abad to cover. Davis, Krupa, Hamby, Meyer, Grapes, and Santiago manned critically important weapons systems that were heavily targeted by the enemy. Many men, including Sones and Meyer, exposed themselves to direct enemy fire to reload these weapons systems that were so important to our defense. One man picked up an unexploded missile that landed in a fighting position after being ejected from a destroyed vehicle. He ran the missile into the open so soldiers could continue to occupy the position in the process, exposing himself to direct enemy fire. Denton stood and returned fire, despite being wounded in both legs and his dominant right hand. Bogar returned fire, stopping only to apply medical aid to me and others before returning to the fight. In the beginning moments of the fight, Matt Phillips immediately returned fire and threw a hand grenade to engage the enemy and repel their assault. Ayers was heavily targeted while continuously firing his machine gun in the face of an overwhelming volume of enemy fire, despite already being struck in the helmet by an enemy round. Lieutenant Brostrom and Hovater braved withering enemy fire covering more than 100 meters to help reinforce and defend O.P. Topside. Rainey helped manage the fight at O.P.

Topside, distributing ammo and shifting weapons systems. The second wave of reinforcements, Samaru, Garcia, Denton and Sones, maneuvered to save my life and defend O.P. Topside, where four paratroopers had been wounded and where Ayers, Bogar, Lieutenant Brostrom, Hovater, Phillips, Rainey and Zwilling had given their lives in our defense. They came to help me despite the danger of their own lives, saving my life cost Garcia his own.

You must ask yourself, how did these men do it or what compelled them to take these actions? Again, we return to our dedication to our brothers. We were a family whose bonds were forged in the fires of combat. Our brothers lives were more important than our own. If they were in a fight, then we wanted to be there.

They would never stand alone. I have seen so much valor displayed by my brothers that I cannot even begin to scratch the surface in the short time I have today. Rather, I will spend a lifetime telling their stories to honor their heroic deeds. This is a responsibility that accompanies the award, a responsibility that has been easier to accept knowing that the award belongs to every man I fought alongside. While the Medal of Honor is awarded to an individual, it has felt like anything but an individual achievement.

It is ours, not mine. I will wear it for everyone there that day, especially those we couldn't bring home. The medal represents our sacrifices and those of every service member and will forever serve as a memorial to the fallen. I will never view myself as a recipient, but always as a caretaker. The word hero often accompanies the award. I don't care for the term.

I never have. It is a distinction I have always felt was reserved for those that make the ultimate sacrifice. However, I am humbled and honored to look at my brothers and see men I consider my personal heroes, men I look up to, to every man who fought that day, every man who came to our aid, every leader and peer I ever had. It has been the honor of my life to serve and fight alongside you and all the brothers we lost. My family and I cannot thank you enough for all you have done for me and our country.

I owe you a debt I can never repay. I honor you. Please stand and be recognized. And with those words, several rows of American infantrymen, engineers, helicopter pilots and more stood as Ryan Pitts applauded them.

The Medal of Honor recipient then continued. To the families and loved ones of Sergio Abad, Jonathan Ayers, Jason Bogar, Jonathan Brostrom, Israel Garcia, Jason Hovater, Matthew Phillips, Pruitt Rainey and Gunners Willing. I've thought about them and their sacrifices every day. I will for the rest of my life.

And I'm not alone. You raised, molded and loved incredible men. Many of the men present in this room are here because of their actions, actions that changed the course of history for us, actions that gave the rest of us a second chance. My son, Lucas, exists because of them, as do many other men's children.

I promise that my son will grow up appreciating the sacrifices of men he never knew. I miss them dearly, but it is awe inspiring that such men lived. They were professionals. They were warriors. Thank you. Chosen few.

The Rock. And you were listening to Sergeant Ryan Pitts, Medal of Honor recipient. But if you noticed, he mentioned all of his fellow soldiers names again and again.

And all of those men will least in Sergeant Ryan Pitts's eyes, they were recipients, too. By the way, he hated the word hero. Said it himself. I don't care for the term.

I never have. The Rock, by the way, is a reference to their regiment, the legendary 503rd. During World War Two, when most of the airborne units were in Europe, the 503rd was the first to fight in the Pacific.

They jumped on the Japanese fortress, Corregidor, known as the Rock. And they've kept that nickname ever since, connecting the past to the present and the future. And these guys are historians, a lot of them, at least when it comes to the military.

They know the tradition, the rich tradition and all of those who served before them. Celebrating Medal of Honor recipient Ryan Pitts and all his fellow warriors, his brothers in arms. This is our American story. The following is a high five moment from I'm Katja Adler, host of The Global Story. Over the last 25 years, I've covered conflicts in the Middle East, political and economic crises in Europe, drug cartels in Mexico. Now I'm covering the stories behind the news all over the world in conversation with those who break it. Join me Monday to Friday to find out what's happening, why and what it all means.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2024-05-28 05:07:18 / 2024-05-28 05:12:23 / 5

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