Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Valley of the Shadow of Death

words from the soldier awarded a Silver Star the entire mission in his words

I was returning fire to those bastards from behind a tree when all of a sudden I hear the soft voice of New Dick attempting to yell “Doc’s hit, Doc’s hit.”

Side Note: this is exactly why I wanted that kid to start speaking the fuck up. You MUST be loud in this job. That kid never grasped the concept. He’s lucky I even heard him.

I looked all around me and finally, thirty-five meters to my right, I see Doc laying face down in the dirt on the porch of one of the houses. My stomach dropped out. There are literally no words I can use to fully understand the feeling you get when you see that. I ran over to where he was and dropped directly, but carefully, on top of him. You do that in a fire fight to protect the casualty. The first thing I noticed was the blood on his neck. The second thing I noticed was that he was alive and responding to me. That immediately made me feel better. Doc said he was hit in the left arm, but upon inspection of his arm there was nothing visibly wrong with it. That’s when I started to look more closely at his neck. He had been shot right through the left side of his neck and I could not see an exit wound.
I decided, since the enemy had that spot locked down with heavy machine gun fire, it was time to move him. Yes, he had a gunshot wound to the neck, but if we had stayed there we both would have been killed. That’s when I started to move him.

Wearing all his combat gear, Doc probably weighed two hundred and ten pounds or so. Moving him myself was a slow process. While I was dragging him to a nearby room in this random village, I noticed two things almost simultaneously. The first thing was that the wall to my right was being peppered with incoming small arms fire that originated from the corn fields to my left. The second was that New Dick was about five feet away from Doc in the doorway of a small barn and he had obviously been there the whole time. He had frozen and couldn’t bring himself to come out and help Doc. I’m still not sure if I should have beat his ass or tried to understand his position. I’ve been working with Doc as our Platoon medic for a long time and he’s a good friend of mine. The first thing I thought when I saw him was that I needed to help him right away. New Dick’s first thought was probably something along the lines of “Oh shit, I’m gonna get shot.” He doesn’t know Doc that well and he’s not at all seasoned as a combat Infantryman. So, as I said, I’m still on the fence as to either beating the living crap out of him or telling him to use that instance as a learning experience.

When I saw New Dick I continued to drag Doc to the room (that was now about 10 feet away) and screamed at the top of my lungs to him the following words…


He didn’t move.


That’s when New Dick worked up the courage to take his first step toward Doc and I. And as he took that step, a round hit him right in his left hand. By that time, Washout had made it to our position. I yelled at him to grab New Dick and get back inside the barn, which he did immediately. Shortly after that, Vice City and The Situation had run over, grabbed up Doc, and got him into the room.

Then there is the article about the award of his Silver Star Sec of Defense Robeert Gates awards some Silver Stars for Heroism

St. Charles native and U.S. Army Spc. Richard Bennett thought only of his fallen comrade’s peril when he bolted through heavy gunfire to aid the injured medic during a mission in eastern Afghanistan.

Bennett remained focused on his “brothers” Tuesday after he and Army 1st Lt. Stephen R. Tangen of Naperville each collected a Silver Star medal for their separate actions under fire there this summer. The pair was among six Army soldiers earning the third-highest award for bravery in combat given by the military. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates presented the honors in person to the soldiers for their actions during various Operation Strong Eagle missions in the Kunar province.

“It was an incredible honor that the secretary of defense would come. It was a little overwhelming,” said Tangen, according to a Department of Defense news account. “Forward Operating Base Joyce gets attacked almost every day, so just the fact that he would come to a remote FOB like this and put his life on the line it doesn’t happen every day.”

Noted recipients of the honor include Lt. Col. Oliver North, Gens. George S. Patton and Douglas MacArthur, as well as Sens. John Kerry and John McCain. More recently, former Arizona Cardinals football player Pat Tillman, who died in friendly fire in Afghanistan, was given the award posthumously.
Heroic actions must be “performed with marked distinction” to earn a Silver Star, an honor bestowed for acts that do not rise to the level deserving of a Medal of Honor or Distinguished Service Cross.

“As far as the award, it is for my platoon. I may have gotten it, but we were all there that day and all of us went through that,” Bennett wrote in e-mail from Afghanistan.

Bennett and his 101st Airborne platoon were on a mission on foot in a valley along a mountainside when they came under heavy fire. During the skirmish, the platoon medic was shot in the neck and he was lying face down on a porch.

“My stomach dropped out,” Bennett wrote. “There are literally no words I can use to fully understand the feeling you get when you see that. … I’ve been working with Doc as our platoon medic for a long time and he’s a good friend of mine. The first thing I thought when I saw him was that I needed to help him right away.”
Seeing the fellow soldier was pinned down by enemy bullets, Bennett left his cover provided by a tree and ran to provide aid and protection for his comrade.
“He ran 35 meters under a hail of gunfire,” said his mom, Lisa Bennett.
Bennett dropped down atop the injured man using his own body to shield the medic while he assessed his injuries, he recalled.

He then pulled the man into the vacant house as gunfire continued. Bullets “peppered” the building, and as he waited for the gunfire to subside, he looked at the bullet-ridden wall and was reminded of a scene from the movie “Pulp Fiction.” In the scene, two characters survive a hail of gunfire unscathed, much like Bennett.

“It was one of the single craziest moments I’ve ever experienced,” he wrote.
The man Bennett saved, and another soldier who was nearby and wounded by a bullet to the hand, survived and are recovering from their wounds.
The award-winning soldiers’ parents were thrilled for their sons.
“I’m incredibly proud of him, but I always have been,” said Bennett’s mom, Lisa Bennett, of Geneva. “He’s always been a person with courage in his convictions … and unafraid.”
She continued, “He’s with an impressive group of soldiers over there too. He really sees those guys in his platoon as brothers. He knows they would do the same for him. They’re all heroes.”

Bennett’s father, South Elgin Police Sgt. Richard Bennett, said it was the second-best news he could get about his son.
“The Silver Star … wow. I’m on the verge of tears now,” said his father, who lives in Elgin. “It doesn’t surprise me. He’s been a heck of a kid his whole life. I don’t think he even thought about it. He just reacted. The only better news is if he was coming home.”
Likewise, Andrew Tangen was impressed but not surprised by his 24-year-old son’s heroic actions.

“They’re like his family,” said Tangen, whose three sons are all Eagle Scouts. His eldest son, Andrew, is a lieutenant in the Navy and also deployed in Afghanistan. “It’s just who they are. They’re doing what needs to be done.”
Tangen suspects his son, who didn’t share details in a weekend call home, was honored for his efforts to save his staff sergeant and close friend during one of the mission’s firefights. Staff Sgt. Eric Shaw of Massachusetts died in Stephen Tangen’s arms as he tried to move him to safety, Tangen wrote to his family.
“He’s a very humble young man,” Andrew Tangen said of his son.
Bennett, 29, graduated in 2000 from St. Charles High School. He attended Aurora University and Northern Illinois University, and then worked as a personal trainer for a few years before enlisting just after President Barack Obama’s election to office.

Bennett and Tangen, who are in the 101st Airborne based out of Fort Campbell in Kentucky, arrived in Afghanistan in May for a one-year deployment.
Bennett plans to return to college for an education degree. Tangen, who is a 2004 Naperville North High School and 2008 West Point graduate, plans to attend medical school and become a doctor.

Read more:


this is the story of a true hero, even though he does not want this label, his actions have earned him this award and distinction, and I am an old Infantry NCO SALUTE him.

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