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NH soldier will get Medal of Honor

Union Leader Correspondent

June 23. 2014 9:36PM
While Sgt. Ryan Pitts of Mont Vernon recovers at Walter Reed Army Hospital, his mother Kelly is raising money so that Pitts' and his fellow soldiers can fly to Italy for a memorial service. (COURTESY)

NASHUA — Next month, a Nashua man seriously injured six years ago in Afghanistan will be awarded the Medal of Honor by President Barack Obama.

Ryan M. Pitts, a former active-duty Army staff sergeant who now works at Oracle Corp. in Burlington, Mass., will receive the nation's highest military award for conspicuous gallantry for his courageous actions while serving during combat operations at Vehicle Patrol Base Kahler on July 13, 2008.

Pitts will be the ninth living recipient to be awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan, according to a news release from the White House Office of the Press Secretary.

“He and his family will join the President at the White House to commemorate his example of selfless service,” the release states, noting the award ceremony will take place on July 21.

Pitts, a 2003 graduate of Souhegan High School, was a member of the 173rd, 2-503 Airborne in eastern Afghanistan’s Kunar province when he was seriously injured in the Battle of Wanat.

Nine American soldiers died.

More than 25 others, including Pitts, were seriously injured when they were forced to defend themselves against gunfire and rocket-propelled grenades launched by 200 Taliban insurgents.

According to a report in The Boston Globe, Pitts sustained shrapnel in his arms, legs and chest, but was able to delay the enemy long enough for help to arrive.

He whispered reports over the radio about insurgent positions, and provided instructions for helicopter gunships to engage the enemy to the north.

“His remarkable poise, toughness and courage despite his critical wounds were instrumental in turning the tide of the battle and preventing further U.S. casualties,” Gov. Maggie Hassan said in a statement. “Because of his heroic actions, our country is safer, our freedom is stronger and many of his fellow soldiers returned home safely to their families.”

Following the Battle of Wanat, Pitts remained hospitalized at Walter Reed Army Medical Center until October 2009, during which time his mother, Kelly Pitts, spearheaded a mission to help her son reconnect with his comrades in order to mourn the loss of their fellow soldiers.

The Medal of Honor recognizes members of the armed forces who distinguish themselves conspicuously by gallantry above and beyond the call of duty while engaging in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force.

“The meritorious conduct must involve great personal bravery or self-sacrifice so conspicuous as to clearly distinguish the individual above his or her comrades and must have involved risk of life,” the White House news release says.

Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Kelly Ayotte issued statements on Monday recognizing Pitts for his heroism.

“Sgt. Pitts represents the best of our men and women in uniform, and we in New Hampshire are grateful for his service and are proud to call him one of our own,” Shaheen said.

Ayotte said the bravery and self-sacrifice of service members like Pitts secure American freedom and the nation’s way of life.

After his recovery, Pitts later graduated with honors from the University of New Hampshire with a business degree. He now works in business development for the computer software industry.

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