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370px-Medalsofhonor2WASHINGTON President Barack Obama presented the Medal of Honor today to the first living servicemember to receive the distinction for service in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
During a White House ceremony, the commander in chief of what he called "the finest military that the world has ever known" awarded the medal to Army Staff Sgt. Salvatore A. Giunta for heroic action in Afghanistan's Korengal Valley on Oct. 25, 2007."Since the end of the Vietnam War, the Medal of Honor has been awarded nine times for conspicuous gallantry in an ongoing or recent conflict. Sadly, our nation has been unable to present this decoration to the recipients themselves, because each gave his life, his last full measure of devotion, for his country," Obama said. "Today, therefore, marks the first time in nearly 40 years that the recipient of the Medal of Honor for an ongoing conflict has been able to come to the White House and accept this recognition in person," the president said. The Medal of Honor is the highest military award a servicemember can receive for valor in action against a combatant force. Giunta's Medal of Honor is the eighth awarded to troops serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. The previous seven awards all have been posthumous. "It is my privilege to present our nation's highest military decoration to a soldier as humble as he is heroic," the president said. "I'm going to go off script here for a second and just say, 'I really like this guy.'" Cheers and applause followed. "When you meet Sal and you meet his family," Obama continued, "you are just absolutely convinced that this is what America is all about. So this is a joyous occasion for me." During Giunta's first of two tours in Afghanistan, his team leader gave him a piece of advice, Obama said: "You've just got to try to do everything you can when it's your time to do it." The president then described the events that led to today's medal presentation. "He was a specialist then, just 22 years old. Sal and his platoon were several days into a mission in the Korengal Valley, the most dangerous valley in northeast Afghanistan," Obama said. Giunta was serving as a rifle team leader with the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team's Company B, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment. That October evening, his squad ran into an insurgent ambush. The platoon's soldiers had spent the day in an overwatch position and were heading back to their base camp. Giunta's squad moved out first and came under enemy fire. "It was an ambush so close that the cracks of the guns and the whiz of the bullets were simultaneous," the president said. "The Apache gunships overhead saw it all, but couldn't engage with the enemy so close to our soldiers." When the ambush split Giunta's squad into two groups, he exposed himself to enemy fire to pull a squad mate back to cover. Later, while returning fire and attempting to link up with the rest of his squad, Giunta saw two insurgents carrying away a wounded fellow soldier, Sgt. Joshua C. Brennan. "Sal never broke stride," Obama said. "He leapt forward, he took aim, he killed one of the insurgents and wounded the other, who ran off. Sal found his friend alive, but badly wounded. He had saved him from the enemy. Now he had to try to save his life." Giunta provided medical aid to his wounded comrade while the rest of his squad caught up and provided security. Brennan, 22, from McFarland, Wis., died the next day during surgery. A medic, Spc. Hugo V. Mendoza, 29, of Glendale, Ariz., also died. "It had been as intense and violent a firefight as any soldier will experience," the president said. "By the time it was finished, every member of first platoon had shrapnel or a bullet hole in their gear. Five were wounded, and two gave their lives." Obama said Giunta is a "low-key guy" who doesn't seek the limelight. "Your actions disrupted a devastating ambush before it could claim more lives," the president said to Giunta. "Your courage prevented the capture of an American soldier and brought that soldier back to his family. You may believe you don't deserve this honor, but it was your fellow soldiers who recommended you for it." Obama asked members of Giunta's team from that day who were present at the ceremony to stand and be recognized. "Gentlemen, thank you for your service," Obama said. "We're all in your debt, and I'm proud to be your commander in chief." America's highly trained and battle-hardened servicemembers all have one thing in common, Obama said: they volunteer. "In an era when it's never been more tempting to chase personal ambition or narrow self-interest, they chose the opposite," he said. "For the better part of a decade, they have endured tour after tour in distant and difficult places. They have protected us from danger. They have given others the opportunity to earn a better and more secure life." Obama quoted something Giunta said shortly after he learned he would receive the Medal of Honor. "'If I'm a hero,' Sal has said, 'Then every man who stands around me, every woman in the military, every person who defends this country is.' And he's right," the president said. "This medal today is a testament to his uncommon valor, but also to the parents and the community that raised him, the military that trained him, and all the men and women who served by his side." Today's servicemembers represent a small fraction of the nation's population, Obama said. "But they and the families who await their safe return carry far more than their fair share of our burden. They do it in hopes that our children and grandchildren won't have to," he said. "They are the very best part of us. They are why our banner still waves, our founding principles still shine. They are why our country, the United States of America, still stands as a force for good all over the world." The president stood beside the staff sergeant as the Medal of Honor citation was read, and then fastened the distinctive blue ribbon suspending the medal around Giunta's neck. Giunta stood at attention as the crowd applauded and cheered. Finally, when the clapping continued without abating, the young man smiled. Giunta was born Jan. 21, 1985, in Clinton, Iowa, and grew up in Cedar Rapids and Hiawatha, Iowa. His parents, Steven and Rosemary Giunta, live in Hiawatha. He has a younger brother, Mario, and a younger sister, Katie. Giunta enlisted in the Army in November 2003, and completed basic and infantry training at Fort Benning, Ga. He married Jennifer Lynn Mueller, a native of Dubuque, Iowa, in October 2009. Giunta completed two combat tours in Afghanistan with the 173rd, from March 2005 to March 2006 and from May 2007 to August 2008. He currently is stationed at the unit's home base near Vicenza, Italy, while the brigade is once more deployed to Afghanistan. Giunta's wife, parents and siblings accompanied him to the White House for today's medal presentation. Also attending today's ceremony were First Lady Michelle Obama, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, members of Congress, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, Army Secretary John M. McHugh and Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. Here is the text of Giunta's Medal of Honor citation: The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, March 3, 1863, has awarded, in the name of Congress, the Medal of Honor to Specialist Salvatore A. Giunta, United States Army. For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty: Specialist Salvatore A. Giunta distinguished himself conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty in action with an armed enemy in the Korengal Valley, Afghanistan, on October 25, 2007. While conducting a patrol as team leader with Company B, 2d Battalion (Airborne), 503d Infantry Regiment, Specialist Giunta and his team were navigating through harsh terrain when they were ambushed by a well-armed and well-coordinated insurgent force. While under heavy enemy fire, Specialist Giunta immediately sprinted towards cover and engaged the enemy. Seeing that his squad leader had fallen and believing that he had been injured, Specialist Giunta exposed himself to withering enemy fire and raced towards his squad leader, helped him to cover, and administered medical aid. While administering first aid, enemy fire struck Specialist Giunta's body armor and his secondary weapon. Without regard to the ongoing fire, Specialist Giunta engaged the enemy before prepping and throwing grenades, using the explosions for cover in order to conceal his position. Attempting to reach additional wounded fellow soldiers who were separated from the squad, Specialist Giunta and his team encountered a barrage of enemy fire that forced them to the ground. The team continued forward and upon reaching the wounded soldiers, Specialist Giunta realized that another soldier was still separated from the element. Specialist Giunta then advanced forward on his own initiative. As he crested the top of a hill, he observed two insurgents carrying away an American soldier. He immediately engaged the enemy, killing one and wounding the other. Upon reaching the wounded soldier, he began to provide medical aid, as his squad caught up and provided security. Specialist Giunta's unwavering courage, selflessness, and decisive leadership while under extreme enemy fire were integral to his platoon's ability to defeat an enemy ambush and recover a fellow American soldier from the enemy. Specialist Salvatore A. Giunta's extraordinary heroism and selflessness above and beyond the call of duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, Company B, 2d Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment, and the United States Army. Nov. 16, 2010: By Karen Parrish- American Forces Press Service
P23705-31.jpgNovember 11, 2010:  Well, a veteran is one of your neighbors who had what it took to step in between you and the bad guys.   And these days a veteran may yet be doing that, having returned to active duty abroad to protect us and our families here at home.  And my fellow men should know that nowadays there are women out there carrying guns and flying aircraft to look out for us  and our families here at home. Which brings up the question.
What should we do for them? And to everyone with a legitimate value system, the moral covenant is obvious: you stick up for the folks who stick up for you. For the veterans that means making sure they are provided with what they were promised in exchange for risking limb and life to protect our families. For the active duty that means looking out for them and their families in the thousands of different ways that it is necessary to do so. In both cases it means letting them know that you know about them and appreciate them. If you're sheepish about walking up and saying "thanks" to a vet or current soldier, we can tell you two private ways you can make your feelings known. Write a letter to the editor (and follow up to make sure they print it).  Send us a message of thanks to the troops using the tools on this website. The point is this. It is individuals who step up to protect this nation, and it is we individuals who must step up for them. God Bless and keep safe all those who have or do serve on our behalves. May the Lord make his face shine upon them and grant them peace.
GoodyearSOTtireDaytona Beach, November 1, 2010 - Signatures of 43 Nascar drivers alongside those of deployed troops unify American civilians and soldiers. On July 1st General Petraeus called for unity to achieve success in the fight against terror.
And to help answer that call Support Our Troops created two "Unity for Victory Race Tires." One for Iraq. One for Afghanistan.
The Iraq tire bears the signatures of all 43 of the Nascar drivers who drove on thehistoric Goodyear Support Our Troops® Tires in the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series races over the July 4th holiday weekend at the Daytona International Speedway. The drivers' signatures represent the support of civilians here at home who acknowledge and appreciate what the troops are daily doing for all of us abroad. Now the troops in Iraq are signing the same "Unity for Victory Race Tire", alongside the names of those drivers, to symbolically bind the American people, civilian and soldier, together in solidarity. The 1st Infantry Division in Southern Iraq has custody of the "Unity for Victory Race Tire" and is moving it throughout the region to be signed by troopers in various locations. "Our men and women are thrilled to be part of something both important and fun. And knowing the people at home are with us makes all the difference in the world and boosts morale as we do our work" said MSG Matthew. "It means so much to us to have the support and loyalty of fellow Americans at home. Seeing such large-scale organizations as Goodyear and Nascar participate in the Support Our Troops Campaign to say "Thank You" sends a positive and powerful message. Those two simple words mean a lot more to a Soldier serving overseas than most people understand." SFC Jake. The Iraq tire is sister to the Unity for Victory Race Tire which was choppered throughout Southern Afghanistan by the 82nd Airborne in late July and is now back in the U.S. Together, the two Unity for Victory Race Tires form an integral part of the collection of Goodyear Support Our Troops Race Tires, autographed by Nascar drivers and raced during the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series over the July 4th holiday weekend at the Daytona International Speedway. Those autographed tires were auctioned through the Nascar Foundation and raised $23,000 for SupportOurTroops.Org. The two Unity for Victory Tires will not be sold. Said Martin C. Boire, Chairman of Support Our Troops, Inc, "It is intended they will travel America to various events as a reminder that we have a moral obligation to step up for the troops the way they step up for all of us. A visible location will likely be chosen where the Unity for Victory Tires will be on public display when not traveling." "It is entirely possible that these two tires will become icons with meaning far beyond their initial conception." The "Unity for Victory" Tire will be in Iraq for about two weeks, choppered around to the troops in various difficult and demanding locations to give them the chance to sign it. The auction and Afghanistan and Iraq "Unity for Victory" race tires are part of a broader campaign announced by Support Our Troops®, Goodyear and Nascar at a press conference at the Nascar Media Center on July 1, 2010. For the first time in history, all Goodyear Racing Eagle tires raced in the Nascar Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series races over the July 4th holiday weekend were rebranded with Support Our Troops in red white and blue on their sidewalls. That historic branding kicked off a widespread initiative to benefit U.S. troops. Said Martin Boire, "Thanks to Goodyear Tire, this is the start of something very big and very good for the troops. It encourages all Americans to join together to expand and strengthen the unbreakable bond of affection and loyalty that we share for our deployed troops. And we look forward to ever-increasing positive good works for them in the future." Permission is granted to republish and distribute this article without further permission provided attribution ins made to SupportOurTroops.Org.
[caption id="attachment_3334" align="alignleft" width="201"]GenerationsOfGrotte Current Staff Sgts. Daniel Grotte, left, and Joshua Grotte, two of Grant and Sharon's grandsons.[/caption] The Grottes are not Air Force royalty. They are not descended from aviation pioneers, dogfighting legends or Pentagon insiders. But what the Grottes lack in profile, they more than make up for in volume.
This family, rooted in the Midwest, claims a three-generation Air Force lineage four counting a stepfather in the pre-World War II Army Air Corps. The Grottes' ties to the service began in the buildup to World War II and end, for now, in hangars holding F-16s and KC-135s. They've produced eight airmen, almost all of them crew chiefs who were, or are, low-ranking sergeants.Through the decades, the family has observed the Air Force's dramatic transformation. Grotte hands have repaired clunky, destructive B-25 bombers, then supersonic T-38 trainers and now sleek and lightweight fighters. But while the Air Force's technology has constantly evolved, the Grottes' reasons for enlisting have remained static. The patriotic satisfaction, valuable technical training and lessons on manhood delivered by the Air Force have again and again cemented their family calling.
[caption id="attachment_3335" align="alignleft" width="300"]GenerationsOFGrotte4 Grant Grotte was the first Grotte airman[/caption] And it all started with a mechanic named Grant, a popcorn vendor and a color-blind girl at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas. The patriarch For Grant Grotte, the Wisconsinite son of a paper mill mechanic, an assignment to Sheppard's propeller engine repair shop was a no-brainer. "As much as I resisted," he said, "my father's maintenance skills rubbed off on me." It was the mid-1950s, the days before software diagnostics. Checking out a B-25's engine cylinders could involve reaching out to feel if they'd gone cold. It was enjoyable work, Grant said, and he decided to re-enlist pending a promotion to staff sergeant.
[caption id="attachment_3336" align="alignleft" width="185"]GenerationsOfGrotte3 Sharon Grotte married Grant while working for Air Force intelligence.[/caption] One day, a married friend who sold popcorn at the base theater spied a girl he thought Grant would like. That young lady was Sharon, stepdaughter of an Army Air Corps crew chief. She worked intelligence back then, though supervisors shuffled her off photo intel once they realized she couldn't discern colors. The vendor introduced himself and fixed her up with Grant. They hit it off, so well that they were soon married, and Sharon was honorably discharged a year later for carrying a child. "They threw you out of the force for that back then," said Grant, now 73. Sharon, who died in 1996, became a homemaker, and the lifestyle stuck as they had a second, third and eventually sixth baby boy. Grant wanted an Air Force career, but the slow demise of propeller planes crumbled his hopes of making staff sergeant. Blame it on the rising prominence of jet aircraft. Air Force leaders froze the reciprocating engine mechanic career field and promoted repairmen who tended to jet engines instead, prompting Grant to leave the service in 1958.
"It was a good life while I was in," he said. "I didn't make a lot of money, but it was a good life."Grant needed work. After a stint in his father's paper mill, he landed a job repairing engines with Continental Airlines. This career move proved profoundly influential. Grant spent 37 years with the airline and established the Grotte family formula: Enlist. Get trained. Catch the crew chief bug and stick it out for life first as an airman, then as a civilian. Band of brothers It was the mid-1970s, and the Grotte boys were running wild in El Paso, Texas. "We were really rough teenagers," said Mitch Grotte, Grant and Sharon's fourth son. "If anything happened in the neighborhood, they just called my mom."
[caption id="attachment_3337" align="alignleft" width="300"]GenerationsOFGrotte2 The Grotte family, from left: Mitchell, Rodney, Sharon, Grant, John (a Navy radio operator), Michael, Richard and George. Mitchell, Rodney, Grant, Richard and George were Air Force crew chiefs; Sharon worked for Air Force intelligence.[/caption] Grant was working night shifts then, repairing engines with a small crew at the quiet local airport. At home, he was father to a stable of gearheads. Nearly all of the brothers George, John, Rick, Mitch, Michael and Rodney liked working with their hands and tweaking old muscle cars. They'd load those cars with friends and dates and, later into the evening, roll out to the airport hangar to watch Grant repair planes. "I was out there as soon as I could drive," Mitch said. "Every Friday and Saturday night, I'd spend half the night handing him tools. Just learning the trade." Rick was the first to enlist in the Air Force. Then Mitch. Then Rodney. John joined the Navy, Mitch said, "but we still talked to him anyway." For the Grotte boys, the military offered the right recipe of practical skills and patriotic service. They grew up in a house where dad came home talking airplanes, and mom always stood for the national anthem even during televised baseball games. One by one, Mitch said, he and his brothers entered the service and exchanged their teenage mischief for discipline and hard work. Mitch enlisted in 1979 and rose to the rank of buck sergeant, a now-defunct rank that straddled the line between senior airman and staff sergeant. "It was basically senior airman with a star," Mitch said. "They just gave you NCO responsibilities." He was stationed at the now-closed Reese Air Force Base, Texas, married to his high school sweetheart and working as a crew chief. Like his brothers, Mitch worked on T-38 Talon twin-engine jets, the world's first supersonic trainer and a jet that remains in service. By his fourth year in the service, Mitch had grown weary of the monotony and the service's top-down structure. "We were pretty broke all the time, which is typical of enlisted guys," he said. He wanted more money, more difficult tasks. "I felt like a glorified gas station attendant." So he followed his father's path. Mitch left and started at Continental, where he still works today. His brother Rick, who died two years ago, also repaired engines for Continental. Rodney, taking a slightly different path, began a career with the U.S. Postal Service after leaving the Air Force, and George became a civilian crew chief without military service. "All of us that went in became crew chiefs. We did our time and got out," Mitch said. "None of us had a bad experience in the service. It actually helped us accomplish everything we wanted to accomplish." The new breed Cousins Josh and Daniel Grotte's exposure to the Air Force came one summer getaway at a time in the late 1980s and 1990s. Family gatherings took place at a lakeside cabin in northern Wisconsin, where Grant and his sons would debate the finer points of airplane mechanics. "There was a lot of shop talk around the fire," said Daniel, Rick's son. "It was like they knew everything." But back at home in the Houston area, the cousins were as disinterested in turning gears as most any kids in the Internet generation. Daniel was a trumpet prodigy with dreams of becoming a band director. Josh, Mitch's son, was a college scholarship-worthy football player. "We weren't mechanically minded," Josh said. "I didn't want to work on cars. I just wanted to chase girls and play sports." Fast forward to 2003. Daniel, fresh out of music training at the University of Houston, realized directing public school bands didn't pay the bills. And Josh, after a semester playing football for the University of Wisconsin, had suffered a serious knee injury. In a move the family didn't see coming, they both enlisted that spring just weeks apart. "We wanted to be crew chiefs like our fathers," said Daniel, now a staff sergeant. "We all thought our dads were geniuses, but who doesn't? If it was good enough for our fathers, our heroes, it was good enough for us." Now they are traveling the same path. Daniel, 26 and married, is a traveling crew chief for the Thunderbirds Air Demonstration Squadron. And Josh, also 26 and married, repairs KC-135 air refueling and cargo jets. He's sewing on his staff sergeant stripes next spring. And he's one of the few Grottes who've seen war. Josh has deployed to Iraq five times. Both cousins plan to leave the Air Force in coming years and find aircraft repair work in the civilian sector. "I always thought I was a man before I came in," Josh said. "But being in the military has really made me into who I am. I didn't realize it until I got older, but the Air Force has really made our family what it is." From his home in South Milwaukee, Grant said he never expected the Air Force would so strongly thread his family's identity. "I think of it quite a bit," he said. "I felt, and still do, that you owe the country some military service or service of some type. I never pressured any of my sons to go into the Air Force, but I'm happy they did." As for sowing a fifth Air Force generation, the odds aren't bad. Grant is grandfather to 27 and great-grandfather to 13. That's a lot of potential crew chiefs. By Patrick Winn - Staff writer
[caption id="attachment_3348" align="alignleft" width="300"]370px-Medalsofhonor2 (1) During a White House ceremony, the president awarded a posthumous Medal of Honor recognizing Staff Sgt. Robert J. Miller's 2008 actions in Afghanistan. Miller's parents, Phil and Maureen Miller, accepted the award.[/caption] WASHINGTON President Barack Obama paid tribute today to a young U.S. Army Special Forces sergeant who gave up his life for his fellow soldiers.
During a White House ceremony, the president awarded a posthumous Medal of Honor recognizing Staff Sgt. Robert J. Miller's 2008 actions in Afghanistan. Miller's parents, Phil and Maureen Miller, accepted the award."We are a nation of more than 300 million Americans. Of these, less than 1 percent wears the uniform of our armed services. And of these, just a small fraction has earned the badges of our special operations forces," the president said. "In the finest military the world has ever known, these warriors are the best of the best. In an era that prizes celebrity and status, they are quiet professionals -- never seeking the spotlight. In a time of war, they have borne a burden far beyond their small numbers."The Medal of Honor is the highest military award a servicemember can receive for valor in action against a combatant force. Miller's Medal of Honor is the seventh awarded, all posthumously, to troops serving in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. A living soldier, Army Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta, has been chosen for the award but has yet to receive it. "It has been said that courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point," Obama said. "For Rob Miller, the testing point came nearly three years ago, deep in a snowy Afghan valley. But the courage he displayed that day reflects every virtue that defined his life: Devotion to duty. An abiding sense of honor. A profound love of country." Miller served as a weapons sergeant for Company A, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group Airborne. He was the team's youngest member, on his second deployment to Afghanistan. His team was supporting an Afghan Border Police security patrol in Kunar province Jan. 25, 2008. Taliban fighters opened fire on the group from nearby buildings and from behind boulders. The team called in air strikes on the enemy position, but came under fire again when they moved forward to search for survivors. Miller's team captain was seriously wounded, and Miller remained at the front of the patrol to lay down suppressive fire as the captain was moved to safety. Other team members bounded back over the snowy terrain to find cover and return fire. "Rob held his ground. Despite the chaos around him, he radioed back enemy positions. As the only Pashto speaker on his team, he organized the Afghan soldiers around him. But the incoming fire, in the words of one soldier, was simply 'astounding,'" the president said. "Rob made a decision. He called for his team to fall back. And then he did something extraordinary. Rob moved in the other direction -- toward the enemy, drawing their guns away from his team and bringing the fire of all those insurgents down upon himself," Obama said. The young weapons sergeant continued to fire his weapon and lob grenades at the enemy positions, drawing fire to cover the team's movement even after he was wounded by machine-gun fire. Army accounts of the incident said more than 100 Taliban fighters shot at Miller. Team members say he returned fire for more than 20 minutes after he was wounded. Then his weapon and radio went silent. "This is the story of what one American soldier did for his team, but it's also a story of what they did for him," Obama said. "Two of his teammates braved the bullets and rushed to Rob's aid. In those final moments, they were there at his side -- American soldiers there for each other. "The relentless fire forced them back, but they refused to leave their fallen comrade. When reinforcements arrived, these Americans went in again - risking their lives, taking more casualties - determined to bring Rob Miller out of that valley. And finally, after fighting that raged for hours, they did," the president said. Miller's courage saved his captain's life, and enabled seven of his fellow Special Forces soldiers and 15 Afghan troops to survive, gain cover and repel the attack, Army officials said. The president said Miller's legacy endures in the love of his parents, the pride of his brothers and sisters, in the Afghans he trained and defended, and in the service of his teammates. "Finally, Rob Miller -- and all those who give their lives in our name -- endure in each of us. Every American is safer because of their service. And every American has a duty to remember and honor their sacrifice," Obama said. Miller was born in Harrisburg, Pa., and raised in Wheaton, Ill. His family moved to Florida shortly after the young man graduated from Wheaton High School. He joined the Army in 2003, graduated from the Special Forces Qualification Course in 2004 and completed the Special Forces Weapons Sergeant Course in 2005. In addition to his parents, Miller is survived by his brothers Thomas, Martin and Edward; and sisters Joanna, Mary, Therese and Patricia. First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, Army Secretary John McHugh, Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. and Navy Adm. Eric Olsen, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, attended today's ceremony. Also on hand were several of Miller's teammates from Alpha Company and more than 100 of his friends and family members. Here is the text of Miller's Medal of Honor citation: The President of the United States of America, authorized by act of Congress, March 3rd, 1863, has awarded, in the name of the Congress, the Medal of Honor to Staff Sergeant Robert J. Miller, United States Army, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty. Staff Sergeant Robert J. Miller distinguished himself by extraordinary acts of heroism while serving as the weapons sergeant in Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha 3312, Special Operations Task Force 33, Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force Afghanistan, during combat operations against an armed enemy in Kunar Province, Afghanistan, on January 25th, 2008. While conducting a combat reconnaissance patrol through the Gowardesh Valley, Staff Sergeant Miller and his small element of U.S. and Afghan National Army soldiers engaged a force of 15 to 20 insurgents occupying prepared fighting positions. Staff Sergeant Miller initiated the assault by engaging the enemy positions with his vehicle's turret-mounted Mk 19 40-millimeter automatic grenade launcher, while simultaneously providing detailed descriptions of the enemy positions to his command, enabling effective, accurate close air support. Following the engagement, Staff Sergeant Miller led a small squad forward to conduct a battle damage assessment. As the group neared the small, steep, narrow valley that the enemy had inhabited, a large, well-coordinated insurgent force initiated a near ambush, assaulting from elevated positions with ample cover. Exposed and with little available cover, the patrol was totally vulnerable to enemy rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons fire. As a point man, Staff Sergeant Miller was at the front of the patrol, cut off from supporting elements and less than 20 meters from enemy forces. Nonetheless, with total disregard for his own safety, he called for his men to quickly move back to cover positions as he charged the enemy over exposed ground and under overwhelming enemy fire in order to provide protective fire for his team. While maneuvering to engage the enemy, Staff Sergeant Miller was shot in the upper torso. Ignoring the wound, he continued to push the fight. Moving to draw fire from over 100 enemy fighters upon himself, he then again charged forward through an open area in order to allow his teammates to safely reach cover. After killing at least 10 insurgents, wounding dozens more and repeatedly exposing himself to withering enemy fire while moving from position to position, Staff Sergeant Miller was mortally wounded by enemy fire. His extraordinary valor ultimately saved the lives of seven members of his own team and 15 Afghan National Army soldiers. Staff Sergeant Miller's heroism and selflessness above and beyond the call of duty and at the cost of his own life are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Army. Oct. 6, 2010: By Karen Parrish- American Forces Press Service
[caption id="attachment_3385" align="alignleft" width="300"]WoudedWarriorsEnjoy09242010 Carlos Figueroa, a Marine Corps veteran who suffered a traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder and nerve injuries to his left leg during operations in Afghanistan, tries his hand at kayaking at the National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic in San Diego. VA photo by Robert Turtil[/caption] WASHINGTON Traumatic brain injuries, amputations and other combat wounds aren't getting in the way of a good time - and a great rehabilitative experience - for 75 disabled veterans participating this week in the National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic in San Diego.
The clinic, sponsored by the Veterans Affairs Department, opened Sept. 18 and wraps up with closing ceremonies later today.About a third of the participants were wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan, with some still being processed through the disability evaluation system, officials reported. For many, the clinic is their introduction to adaptive sports and recreational activities, and the therapeutic value of sailing, surfing, cycling, kayaking and track and field events. Raymond Warren, a 29-year-old Marine lance corporal severely wounded in Iraq when a grenade embedded shrapnel in his brain, legs, stomach and arms, said first learning of his severe traumatic brain injury felt like a death sentence. Always highly competitive, Warren feared when he first awoke at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., that an important part of his life was forever gone. "It hit me pretty hard," he said. But this week, as he ran hurdles, kayaked and tried his hand at sailing, surfing and other clinic events alongside his fellow veterans, Warren said he found himself focusing on his abilities rather than his disabilities. "This shows me I've still got what I used to have," he said. "There's nothing that can stop me from accomplishing the goals I've set forth in front of me." Like Warren, Carlos Figueroa always had been a devoted 'jock' before he was medically evacuated from Afghanistan with a traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder and nerve injuries to his left leg. "I've always been really competitive and big into sports, but when I got out of the service with my injury, I realized that I could no longer do any of the sports I used to play because I couldn't run," said the 31-year-old medically retired Marine. A friend introduced Figueroa to mixed martial arts and jujitsu, which have helped to renew his competitive spirit. "Once we hit the floor, I am no longer disabled," he said. "It's a fair game for both of us." Both Figueroa and Warren got their first exposure to VA's sports clinic program while attending the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic in Snowmass, Colo. Warren has participated three times. Figueroa attended the clinic for the first time this spring. "Since my injury, I've competed in other events, and typically I would be the only disabled participant," he said. "But the satisfaction of competing at the winter sports clinic felt 10 times greater -- just being around other disabled veterans, with everyone trying their hardest and knowing that, whether you succeed or not, everyone has achieved a goal in some way, just by being there." A joker at heart, Figueroa said the winter sports clinic restored the smile he'd lost and instilled a newfound self-confidence that has helped him resume a full life. "What I took back from it was not to underestimate myself, not to let my disability control me," he said. "There are still tons of things I can do out there." While relishing the competition at their first summer sports clinic, both Warren and Figueroa say they're buoyed just as much by the camaraderie they've found among their fellow disabled veterans. "You're with people who know what you're going through," Warren said. "We understand each other, so this is like a second family, away from your family." "This is great for veterans," agreed Figueroa. "I see the smile on so many veterans' faces while we are competing. You get participating in an event, and somehow, the pain goes away. I don't know why. Maybe it's just the simple fact that you are around other disabled veterans." Warren said he has benefitted greatly from the lessons shared by veterans with more experience living with their disabilities. "When you fall down, get up. Keep going forward," he said. "And don't let anything hold you down." Warren has taken those lessons to heart, noting he shares them with the newer disabled veterans he meets. "Don't give up on your goals," Warren said he tells his comrades. "And come to these events, because you are among other veterans going through what you are going through, and they will help you through it."Sept. 24, 2010: By Donna Miles- American Forces Press Service

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