Monday, February 11, 2013

Sgt. Clinton Romesha awarded Medal of Honor for battle in Afghanistan

(NBC) President Obama awarded the Medal of Honor to celebrated Army veteran Clinton Romesha on Monday afternoon, making the former active duty staff sergeant just the fourth living person to receive the military’s highest honor for service in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Romesha, 31, fought back tears as Obama presented him with the medal honoring his “conspicuous gallantry” during the Battle of Kamdesh, a day-long firefight at a remote Afghan outpost near the Pakistan border in 2009.

“These men were outnumbered, outgunned, and almost overrun,” Obama said in his remarks in the White House East Room.

Romesha was recognized for leading the charge against hundreds of Taliban fighters during an Oct. 3, 2009, siege on U.S. troops at Combat Outpost Keating, a small compound military officials considered indefensible.

Eight American soldiers were killed and 20 were wounded in the surprise attack, making it the deadliest day for the U.S. in the war effort that year.

Romesha headed up efforts to retake the camp, risking his own life as U.S. troops were besieged by rocket-propelled grenades, machine guns, mortars and rifles.

Romesha, who served twice in Iraq, first took out a machine-gun team and then turned to a second, suffering shrapnel wounds when a grenade struck a generator he was using for cover.

An official citation read at the ceremony described Romesha’s subsequent acts of valor.

"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," the citation says.

“With complete disregard for his own safety, (he) continually exposed himself to heavy enemy fire as he moved confidently about the battlefield engaging and destroying multiple enemy targets.”

All the while, Romesha devised a strategy to secure key points of the battlefield and directed air support to eliminate a band of thirty heavily armed enemy combatants.

Romesha and his team also provided cover so three injured soldiers could make their way to an aid station. They then “pushed forward 100 meters under withering fire to recover the bodies of their fallen comrades,” according to the citation.

Romesha, a father of three and the son of a Vietnam veteran, reportedly never lost his composure during the chaotic attack, according to CNN journalist Jake Tapper, who chronicled the battle in the 2012 book "The Outpost."