By – The Washington Times – Wednesday, August 22, 2018
President on Wednesday awarded posthumously the Medal of Honor to Air Force Technical for courageous action on a snow-covered Afghan mountaintop, where he died fighting alone against al Qaeda militants.
’s valiant action on March 4, 2002, on Takur Gar mountain is credited with helping to save more than 20 fellow American service members, according to the military.
At a White House ceremony, said that from an early age lived by a motto of selfless sacrifice.
“In his high school yearbook, quoted these words: ‘Give yourself before taking of someone else.’ Very farsighted,” the president said. “ lived by that motto every single day.”
, who hailed from Windsor Locks, Connecticut, distinguished himself in an attempt to rescue a fellow team member stranded on the mountaintop after their helicopter crashed into the valley below.
described ’s heroism during the mountaintop firefight, during which the airman was shot, believed dead, but then regained consciousness to fight alone for 70 minutes before succumbing to his wounds.
“He really fought. We have proof of that fight. He really fought,” said.
was awarded the Medal of Honor, upgrading of his Air Force Cross, after a 30-month investigation by the military that included eyewitness accounts and drone footage that revealed the extent of his valor.
At one point, he engaged the al Qaeda militants in hand-to-hand combat, fighting for roughly 70 minutes alone.
“ was the first to charge up the mountain toward the enemy. He killed two terrorists and cleared out the first bunker,” the president said.
He continued, “ left the safety of the first bunker to fire a second enemy grenade at another bunker. As fired on the second bunker, he was shot and fell to the ground and lost consciousness. Even though he was mortally wounded, regained consciousness and continued to fight on — and he really fought.”
Under heavy machine-gun fire, engaged the enemy and provided covering fire in an attempt to prevent terrorist fighters from shooting down an approaching Chinook helicopter carrying U.S. special operators.
“In his final act of supreme courage, gave his life for his fellow warriors,” said. “Through his extraordinary sacrifice, helped save more than 20 American service members, some of whom are here today.”
spent a decade in Air Force Special Operations and specialized in combat control, coordinating air strikes and handling communications.
He was just the 19th airman awarded the Medal of Honor and the first airman to receive the highest military decoration since the Vietnam War.
He was 36 years old when he died on Takur Gar. His widow, Valerie Nessel, accepted the Medal of Honor at the ceremony.
was the second special forces member involved in the Takur Gar battle to receive the Medal of Honor. awarded the decoration in May to retired Master Chief Petty Officer Britt Slabinski for his courageous actions on the mountain.
The decorations were awarded after years of controversy over the rescue mission. Reports said Chief Slabinski and his SEAL team left behind at the bunker.
Although Chief Slabinski reportedly believed was dead, the investigation determined that he fought alone for more than an hour before he was killed.
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