Entries in Medal of Honor (19)


Afghanistan War Hero to Receive Medal of Honor

Joshua Roberts/Bloomberg via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A former Army staff sergeant who helped repel one of the deadliest attacks against U.S. forces in Afghanistan will receive the Medal of Honor.   Staff Sgt. Clinton Romesha, 31, becomes only the fourth living recipient of the nation’s highest award for valor from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The White House announced Friday that on Feb. 11 Romesha will receive the medal for his actions in repelling the deadly  attack on Combat Outpost Keating on Oct. 3, 2009.   At the time Romesha was serving as a Section Leader with Bravo Troop, 3d Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division.

The attack by hundreds of Taliban fighters on the remote outpost in eastern Afghanistan killed eight American soldiers and left 22 others wounded.   The attack was profiled in the book The Outpost by Jake Tapper, formerly of ABC News.

Romesha will become the 11th veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to be awarded the medal.  Seven of them have been awarded posthumously.

Combat Outpost Keating was a small base in Afghanistan’s Nuristan Province,  located at the bottom of a valley surrounded on all sides by steep mountain ridges.  Plans to close the base had been delayed for months when the attack was launched by 300 Taliban fighters, hiding in the rugged terrain.

According to the citation accompanying his award, Romesha took out an enemy machine gun team and was injured by a rocket propelled grenade as he engaged a second one.

“Undeterred by his injuries, Staff Sergeant Romesha continued to fight,” says the citation, “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.”

Now leading a five-man team, Romesha used a sniper rifle to fight back Taliban attackers, including three who had breached the outpost’s perimeter.

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

Maintaining radio communication with the tactical operations center at the base, Romesha identified a main point of attackers and directed air support that killed “over 30 enemy fighters.”

“After learning that other Soldiers at a distant battle position were still alive, Staff Sergeant Romesha and his team provided covering fire, allowing three of their wounded comrades to reach the aid station." Romesha and his team then "pushed forward 100 meters under withering fire, to recover the bodies of their fallen comrades.”

The citation says “Staff Sergeant Romesha’s heroic actions throughout the day-long battle were critical in suppressing an enemy that had far greater numbers.  His extraordinary efforts gave Bravo Troop the opportunity to regroup, reorganize and prepare for the counterattack that allowed the Troop to account for its personnel and secure Combat Outpost Keating.”

After the battle, Outpost Keating was finally closed down.

Romesha enlisted in the Army in September 1999 and served until April 2011. Married and a father of three, he currently lives in Minot, N.D.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Boys Return War Medals to Medal of Honor Winner's Family

Courtesy Mazzariello family(NEW YORK) -- When his sons do well in school, Michael Mazzariello of Wallkill, N.Y., takes them to Newburgh's Antique & Collectible Shop for a special treat -- G.I. Joes.

A trip in late April brought an even greater reward when a bin of soldiers' medals caught the boys' eyes.  Rifling through them, Michael, 11, and Mauro, 8, came across three honors bearing the same soldier's name: Charles George.

The purple heart, bronze star and good conduct awards they found in the tiny New York shop belonged to the namesake of Asheville, N.C.'s Veterans Affairs Medical Center and a recipient of the United States' highest military honor, the medal of honor.

"We went in looking for a G.I. Joe Real American Hero and came out with a real American hero," the 6th grader Michael said.

The Mazzariello boys got to see the awards united with George's family at a Veteran's Day ceremony in North Carolina on Monday.

"It was the most satisfying moment of my life, to finally give the medals back to them," the 11-year-old said.

Terrance Berean, one of the store's owners, estimated the medals' worth at $800 because of their good condition and the unique circumstances of their origin.

"They were from a Cherokee Indian who died supposedly from a grenade, so that escalates [their value] way up," Berean said.

However, Berean's son agreed to give the Mazzariellos the medals for free on one condition -- that they find their rightful owner.

Using a combination of state senators, veterans and YouTube, the boys were able to determine that these were the medals of an American hero.

On Nov. 30, 1952, George, whose Cherokee name "Tsali" means self-sacrifice, threw himself on a grenade that killed him, but saved those fighting in his company during the Korean War.  His legacy was honored not only by his local Eastern Band Cherokee community, but also by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, according to the United States Department of Veterans Affairs website.

Eisenhower invited George's parents to Washington D.C. to receive the honors on their son's behalf and though they held tight to the Medal of Honor, their son's other awards somehow got lost.

Sixty years after George died serving the United States, the medals honoring his service were finally reunited with his family.  Michael and Mauro spoke to a crowd gathered to honor veterans, bringing both tears and smiles to attendees' faces.

"There were standing ovations, crying, crazy emotional.  And it was wonderful for us to meet Charles George's family -- nieces, nephews, crazy," the Mazzariellos' father Michael said.

After this journey, young Michael has decided he too wants to serve his country.

"I want to be a doctor for the military so I can help fix them," he said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Pentagon Launches Website to Stop Bogus Medal Winners

Joshua Roberts/Bloomberg via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Unscrupulous people will be less inclined to fake medals won in the military because of a new website launched by the Pentagon on Wednesday.

The White House and Congress were taken aback after a recent Supreme Court ruling that tossed out the Stolen Valor Act.  While admitting that pretending to be a military hero is reprehensible, the judges maintained that it's protected free speech and fakers should not be subject to fines or jail time.

But according to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, "One of the most important things we can do for all veterans is to honor the service of those who have gone above and beyond the call of duty."

Therefore, the new site will list only those who have legitimately won special honors for displaying valor while in armed forces.

It will begin with Medal of Honor recipients and then gradually add other honors including the Army’s Distinguished Service Cross and the Navy and Air Force service crosses.

That way, people who seek to fudge their resume might think twice about it if there's a list that can expose them as frauds.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


40 Years Late, Vietnam Hero Leslie Sabo Gets Medal of Honor

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Forty-two years after his selfless act of heroism during the Vietnam War saved the lives of his fellow soldiers, Army Specialist Leslie H. Sabo Jr. posthumously received the Medal of Honor Wednesday.

"This Medal of Honor is bestowed on a single soldier for his singular courage. But it speaks to the service of an entire generation, and to the sacrifice of so many military families," President Obama said in a White House ceremony before presenting the nation's highest decoration for valor to Sabo's widow and brother.

Sabo, then 22, died on May 10, 1970, as his patrol was ambushed near a remote border area of Cambodia. The attack by North Vietnamese troops killed seven of Sabo's fellow soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division and would come to be known as the "Mother's Day ambush."

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"Les was in the rear -- and he could have stayed there. But those fighters were unloading on his brothers," Obama said. "So Les charged forward and took several of those fighters out."

When an enemy grenade landed near a wounded comrade, Sabo used his body to shield the soldier from the blast as he tossed the grenade out of the way. Even though he had been wounded by automatic weapons fire, Sabo "did something extraordinary," Obama said. "He began to crawl straight toward an enemy bunker, its machine guns blazing."

"Les kept crawling, kept pulling himself along, closer to that bunker, even as the bullets hit the ground all around him. And then, he grabbed a grenade and he pulled the pin. It's said he held that grenade and didn't throw it until the last possible moment, knowing it would take his own life, but knowing he could silence that bunker. And he did. He saved his comrades, who meant more to him than life," Obama said.

Sabo's commanders nominated him for the Medal of Honor, but the request was somehow lost. "Four decades after Leslie's sacrifice, we can set the record straight," Obama said Wednesday.

"Leslie Sabo left behind a wife who adored him, a brother who loved him, parents who cherished him, and family and friends who admired him. But they never knew. For decades, they never knew their Les had died a hero. The fog of war, and paperwork that seemed to get lost in the shuffle, meant this story was almost lost to history," the president said.

A campaign to correct the oversight began in 1999 when Tony Mabb, a researcher for the 101st Airborne Division Association's magazine, came across a thick file of Sabo's paperwork in the National Archives. Mabb contacted members of Congress, who worked to extend the statute of limitations for nominations for the Medal of Honor so Sabo's case could be reviewed. Nominations for the medal usually had to be made within three years of the incident.

After legislation was passed in 2008 that eliminated that hurdle, the Army's recommendation that Sabo should receive the Medal of Honor was forwarded to the White House in 2010. The White House announced in April that President Obama would posthumously award Sabo the medal.

The president Wednesday personally thanked Mabb for his determination to "right this wrong."

Sabo emigrated with his family from Austria as a toddler. He met Rose Mary Brown at a high school football game. They dated for two years and were married in 1969, after he received his draft notice.

The 30 days of Army leave he took before being deployed overseas were the only time he and his wife would spend together as a married couple before he was killed in action the following May.

Brown was visibly shaken Wednesday as the president, standing with his arm around her, presented her with her husband's Medal of Honor. As she wiped away tears, Obama leaned over and kissed her on the cheek. Afterwards, an emotional Brown told reporters, "I know a piece of cloth and a medal won't bring him back, but my heart beats with pride for Leslie."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Supreme Court Hears Challenge to Stolen Valor Act

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Maj. David McCombs, a U.S. Marine who has served four tours overseas, stood out in the cold early Wednesday morning waiting for one of the few public seats in the Supreme Court hearing room.

McCombs came to the court to hear a case challenging the Stolen Valor Act, a law that makes it a crime to lie about receiving military awards.

"The medal of honor is the highest medal that can be awarded," said McCombs. "I believe the medal itself represents the highest sacrifice someone can pay. To lie about such an honor is a disgrace."

But some high court justices struggled with what Justice Anthony Kennedy called the "slippery slope problem."

Kennedy asked, for instance, about a lie concerning a college degree. Elena Kagan wondered about a law that could be passed to ban lies about extramarital affairs.

Chief Justice John Roberts asked Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr., "Where do you stop? I mean, there are many things that people know about themselves that are objectively verifiable where Congress would have an interest in protecting."

The law is being challenged in court by Xavier Alvarez, who, while serving as a public official in California, introduced himself to an audience by saying, "I'm a retired Marine for 25 years. I was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor."

Alvarez had never even served in the military.

As one of the first people prosecuted under the law, he was sentenced to three years' probation, a $5,000 fine and community service.

Inside court, Alvarez's federal public defender, Jonathan D. Libby, acknowledged to the justices that his client is a liar. But he said the Stolen Valor Act goes too far and violates the First Amendment.

"The Stolen Valor Act criminalizes pure speech in the form of bare falsity, a mere telling of a lie," Libby said. "It doesn't matter whether the lie was told in a public meeting or in a private conversation with a friend or family member."

The government argued that the law fits into a narrow category of speech that is unprotected by the First Amendment.

Verrilli said the law "regulates a carefully limited and narrowly drawn category of calculated factual falsehoods. It advances a legitimate, substantial, indeed compelling governmental interest, and it chills no speech."

Justice Sonia Sotomayor focused on the harm that a lie about military awards might cause.

"You can't really believe that a war veteran thinks less of the medal that he or she receives because someone's claiming fraudulently that they got one," she told Verrilli. "I'm not minimizing it. I, too, take offense when people make these kinds of claims, but I take offense when someone I'm dating makes a claim that's not true."

Verrilli said the statute is as "narrow as you can get" and stressed the importance of protecting the honor system.

"What I think with respect to the government's interest here, and why there is a harm to that interest, is that the point of these medals is that it's a big deal," he said.

"The honor system is about identifying the attributes, the essence, of what we want in our servicemen and women -- courage, sacrifice, love of country, willingness to put your life on the line for your comrades."

Justice Antonin Scalia expressed support for the law.

"When Congress passed this legislation, I assume it did so because it thought that the value of the awards that these courageous members of the armed forces were receiving was being demeaned and diminished."

Justice Samuel Alito asked why a lie should receive First Amendment protection.

"Do you really think that there is First Amendment value in a bald-faced lie about a purely factual statement that a person makes about himself because that person would like to create a particular persona?" he asked.

"Yes, your honor," Libby said, "so long as it doesn't cause imminent harm to another person or imminent harm to a government function."

A lower court ruled in favor of Alvarez, saying that while society would be "better off if Alvarez would stop spreading worthless, ridiculous and offensive untruths," the law was "unconstitutionally applied to make a criminal out of a man who was proven to be nothing more than a liar."

The case should be decided by the spring.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Supreme Court to Hear Case Challenging Stolen Valor Act

Joshua Roberts/Bloomberg via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Jonathan D. Libby does not dispute the fact that his client, Xavier Alvarez, told a "whopping" lie when he announced publicly that he had been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Alvarez was one of the first people to be prosecuted under the federal Stolen Valor Act, a 2006 law that makes it a crime to lie about receiving military awards.

He was prosecuted because, as an elected member of the board of directors of the Three Valley Water District Board in California, he introduced himself in 2007 to the audience by saying, "I'm a retired Marine of 25 years.  I was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor."

Alvarez had never even served in the military.

But Libby, a deputy federal public defender, argues that Alvarez's speech was a lie, not a crime.  The U.S. Supreme Court will take up Alvarez's case Wednesday and his argument that the Stolen Valor Act is unconstitutional under the First Amendment.

"Exaggerated anecdotes, barroom braggadocio and cocktail party puffery have always been thought to be beyond the realm of government reach and to pass without fear of criminal punishment," Libby writes in court papers.

He says that unlike other categories of speech such as defamation and fraud, his client's false factual speech is protected by the First Amendment.

The Obama administration argues that the law fits into a "discrete and narrow" category of speech that is unprotected by the First Amendment: "knowingly false representations that a reasonable observer would understand as a factual claim that the speaker has been awarded a military honor."

Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. says the law is necessary to protect the military awards system against claims that undercut its purpose to confer honor and foster morale in the armed forces.  He says the law does not chill truthful and other fully protected speech.

"Prohibiting those false statements," Verrilli writes, "poses little risk of chilling any protected speech or allowing the government to punish disfavored viewpoints or act as the arbiter of truth and falsity on matters subject to public debate."

Libby says Congress' effort in passing the law was "laudable but does not warrant the intrusion on speech it causes, and thus goes farther than necessary."

A lower court ruled in favor of Alvarez saying that while society would be "better off if Alvarez would stop spreading worthless, ridiculous, and offensive untruths" the law was "unconstitutionally applied to make a criminal out of a man who was proven to be nothing more than a liar, without more." 

The issue of exaggerating military service came to the forefront in Richard Blumenthal's 2010 race to fill the Senate seat vacated by Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT). Connecticut's then Attorney General was found to have lied -- repeatedly -- about having served in Vietnam. In actuality, Blumenthal did not. Instead he obtained five deferments, and eventually snagged a spot in the U.S. Marine Reserves at the time of the Vietnam War, which all but guaranteed he didn't have to fight overseas. Instead he helped collect donations for Toys for Tots and performed other duties stateside.

Blumenthal won the Senate seat regardless.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


White House Stands by Medal of Honor Recipient Sgt. Dakota Meyer

ABC News(WASHINGTON) – The White House stood by Sgt. Dakota Meyer, medal of honor recipient, on Thursday, after being asked by a reporter from McClatchy newspapers about her organization’s investigation, which concluded that “crucial parts of the story of Meyer’s deeds that the Marine Corps publicized and Obama described to the nation are untrue, unsubstantiated or exaggerated.”

“The president was very proud to present the Medal of Honor to Sergeant Meyer for his extraordinary service in Afghanistan,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said.

The McClatchy newspapers story stated that Meyer “didn’t save as many people, kill as many enemy fighters or lead the final push to retrieve his dead comrades, as the record says. Moreover, it’s unclear from the documents whether the 23-year-old Kentucky native disobeyed orders when he entered the Ganjgal Valley on Sept. 8, 2009, as the record says he did.”

Carney said that the White House is not concerned and not looking into the Medal of Honor narrative.

“The answer to your question is no,” he said. “Everyone, even the reporter who wrote yesterday’s article, agrees Sergeant Meyer displayed extraordinary heroism. Indeed, a subsequent article within, I think, hours by that same reporter last night, makes it clear that Meyer’s comrades feel he deserves the Medal of Honor. President Obama was proud to present it on behalf of a grateful nation.”

The writer, the well-respected Jonathan Landay, did note that, “What’s most striking is that all this probably was unnecessary. Meyer, the 296th Marine to earn the medal, by all accounts deserved his nomination. At least seven witnesses attested to him performing heroic deeds “in the face of almost certain death.”

Carney said “I would refer you to the Marine Corps. And the process of vetting for Medal of Honor — proposed Medal of Honor recipients is, as I understand it, quite extensive and thorough. Obviously that’s done at the Department of Defense and by the branch of the military that’s affected here, in this case the Marine Corps. The president was very proud to present the Medal of Honor to Sergeant Meyer. He was that day and he remains proud today of his extraordinary service.”

Carney said the “president’s remarks were based on the extensive documentation provided by the Department of Defense and the Marine Corps, including sworn testimony from Sergeant Meyer himself and sworn eyewitness testimonies of others present at the scene. White House staff also personally spoke with Sergeant Meyer. .. The president remains very proud of Sergeant Meyer and the remarkable acts of bravery that he displayed on that day.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Medal of Honor Recipient Fights Allegations He Is Mentally Unstable

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- In September, President Obama awarded the Medal of Honor, the nation's most prestigious military award, to Sgt. Dakota Meyer, the marine who saved 36 of his comrades during an ambush in Afghanistan.

Obama called Meyer one of the most "down-to-earth guys that you will ever meet."

But today, Meyer, 23, is having trouble getting a job because of allegations by defense contractor BAE Systems that he has a drinking problem and is mentally unstable.  Meyer filed legal papers on Monday claiming the allegations were in retaliation for objections he raised about BAE's alleged decision to sell high-tech sniper scopes to the Pakistani military.

After leaving active duty in May 2010, Meyer worked at Ausgar Technologies, a service-disabled veteran-owned small business in California, until April 2011.

"He exhibited a maturity for his age and an insightful capability to get the job done and provide recommendations to improve on what we are doing.  I was very impressed while he was working for us.  He was an outstanding employee," Tom Grant, a retired military naval officer and a senior program manager at Ausgar Technologies, told ABC News.

When asked about the allegations of mental instability and a drinking problem, Grant said, "While Meyer was working for me, I never saw evidence of either of those issues."

In March 2011, Meyer began working at BAE Systems, a British military contracting company, where he learned the company was trying to sell advanced thermal optic scopes to the Pakistani military.

"We are taking the best gear, the best technology on the market to date and giving it to guys known to stab us in the back," Meyer wrote to BAE Systems manager Bobby McCreight, his former co-worker, according to the lawsuit.  "These are the same people killing our guys."

But BAE Systems is claiming that that decision is not up to them.

"The U.S. Department of State, not BAE Systems, makes the decision on what defense-related products can be exported.  In recent years, the U.S. Government has approved the export of defense-related goods from numerous defense companies to Pakistan as part of the United States' bilateral relationship with that country," said Brian J. Roehrkasse, the vice president of public relations at BAE, in a statement.

In May 2011, Meyer gave his two weeks notice to BAE Systems and applied to return to Ausgar Technologies.  He was approved by the U.S. government for the job, but the Ausgar hiring manager informed Meyer that he would not be hired because of allegations made by former marine McCreight, according to the lawsuit.  Ausgar refused to comment on the matter.

Attempts to reach McCreight's lawyer were unsuccessful.

Meyer is now suing McCreight for telling "the government program manager that Mr. Meyer should not be hired for reasons that are false and defamatory," according to Meyer's original petition.

According to Roehrkasse, BAE Systems strongly disagrees with Meyer's claims and intends to "vigorously defend [themselves] through the appropriate legal process."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Medal of Honor Recipient Dakota Meyer Turns Down Special Treatment for FDNY Job

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Despite his opposition to the title, Medal of Honor recipient Dakota Meyer has been called a hero by many, but he sure doesn't want to be treated as one.

The former Marine sergeant has denied a judge's deadline extension that would allow him to apply for his dream job -- to become a New York City firefighter.  Meyer missed the original deadline nearly two weeks ago because he was in Washington, D.C., receiving the prestigious award from President Obama.

The 23-year-old declined the judge's offer because he did not want to be a special exception.

Meyer was awarded the Medal of Honor on Sept. 15, becoming the first living Marine to receive it for heroism in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  He received the nation’s highest military award for repeatedly rushing into heavy enemy fire in an attempt to rescue four missing U.S. servicemembers pinned down in an intense hours-long ambush in eastern Afghanistan on Sept. 8, 2009.

He insists he is not a hero, but rather, was only doing "what Marines do."

"I’m the furthest thing from a hero,” Meyer said on ABC's World News Tonight with Diane Sawyer.  “If this is what it feels like to be a hero you can have it.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Dakota Meyer, Marine Medal of Honor Recipient, Says He’s No Hero

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama presented former Marine Dakota Meyer with the Medal of Honor at the White House Thursday, making Meyer the first living Marine to receive the Medal of Honor for heroism in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The former Marine sergeant, who shared a beer with the president at the White House Wednesday, insists he is not a hero for repeatedly rushing into heavy enemy fire in an attempt to rescue four missing U.S. servicemembers pinned down in an intense hours-long ambush in eastern Afghanistan on Sept. 8, 2009.  Fighting through a piece of shrapnel that had injured his arm, Meyer later reached the four only to find that they had died in the fighting.

At Thursday’s ceremony President Obama called it “fitting” that the ceremony should take place the same week as the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that led to the war in Afghanistan.

Obama described the 23-year-old as representing “the best of a generation that has served with distinction through a decade of war.”

“You did your duty above and beyond, and you kept the faith with the highest traditions of the Marine Corps you love,” said Obama.

Obama called Meyer “one of the most down to earth guys that you will ever meet.”  He noted that when the White House contacted him to arrange the president’s phone call to inform him he was to receive the award, he asked that it be scheduled for his lunch hour from his construction job because he said, “if I don’t work, I don’t get paid.”

“I do appreciate, Dakota, you taking my call,” joked President Obama.

Meyer becomes the 10th recipient of the nation’s highest award for valor in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq; all but two have been presented posthumously.  Army soldiers Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta and Sgt. First Class Leroy Petry are the only other living recipients of the award.

In an interview with ABC’s Bob Woodruff that aired Thursday night on ABC’s World News with Diane Sawyer, Meyer says that if he was faced with the same situation again, “I would do it a hundred times” though he would change only one thing: ”I wish I could have kept them alive.”

He insists he is not a hero, but was only doing “what Marines do…I’m the furthest thing from a hero,” he says, “if this is what it feels like to be a hero you can have it.”  He adds, “What gives me the right to be standing here today and not their kids?  I feel like I failed them and I failed their families.”

Meyer wears bracelets with the names of the four Americans killed in Ganjgal that day and feels some guilt that he survived the battle.

“I guess what’s stuck in my mind is you either get guys out alive or you die trying, if you didn’t die trying, you didn’t try hard enough,” he says.

Now living on his grandparents’ farm in rural Kentucky, Meyer says that he would return to active duty “in a heartbeat” if he could be promised a return to combat “fighting with Marines.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio