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A medal well earned: Ryan M. Pitts is a hero
On July 21, the former Army staff sergeant will receive the Medal of Honor for his valor under fire when 200 Taliban infiltrated the Afghan town of Wanat and besieged his observation post. Pitts, gravely injured in the first attack, stood his ground against overwhelming odds. Only the bravest and best soldiers could have withstood that assault. But to appreciate his rare gallantry, one must recognize his devotion to duty throughout the desperate situation his platoon faced at dawn on July 13, 2008. The following account is excerpted and adapted from a Defense Department narrative:
...Sgt. Pitts, the forward observer, was at his position at Observation Post Topside with eight other paratroopers. At approximately 4:20 a.m., they heard machine-gun fire from the north. Then the valley erupted in fire, and enemy fighters launched a full-scale assault.
Realizing the enemy was in hand-grenade range, Pitts returned to the northern position and began “cooking off” hand grenades – pulling the safety pin, but holding the live weapon in his hand for several seconds before throwing it toward the enemy. This risky tactic prevented enemy forces from throwing the grenades back at the observation post before they detonated. To conserve grenades, Pitts then decided to fire the M240-B machine-gun. Unable to stand because of his injuries, Pitts blind-fired over the waist-high wall of sandbags to provide momentary cover, then propped himself up on his knees to continue laying down fire.
Ryan Pitts is a worthy recipient of our country’s highest military honor. He is a great American whose story should be an inspiration to all. We salute him.
(The Department of Defense has an impressive multimedia tribute to Pitts and the Battle of Wanat. See it at http://www.army.mil/medalofhonor/pitts/profile/index.html.)
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