Medal of Honor recipient reflects on experiences
July 24, 2013
By NICK DUKE
FORT BENNING, Ga. (July 24, 2013) -- One of the Army's most recent Medal of Honor recipients visited Fort Benning last week for the 4th Infantry Division's reunion and the unit's monument dedication.
While here, former Staff Sgt. Clinton Romesha took time to visit with basic training Soldiers and shared his experiences.
"I know as a young Soldier it would have been great to pick the brain of a recipient and to draw from their experience," he said. "So, I always try and make myself available to the Soldiers and to the veterans -- to thank them for their service."
He said one of the things he tried to impress upon the young Soldiers was that he considers himself a regular guy rather than a war hero.
"They look at me and think I'm a superstar or a superhero, but it's great to talk to them and let them know that I'm just a regular guy," he said. "I'm a regular Soldier. I went to basic training just like they did. I didn't go Special Forces. I can't do a million pushups. I just did the job that was expected of us and did it with teamwork."
While Romesha considers himself a regular guy, his actions on Oct. 3, 2009, while serving with B Troop, 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, at Combat Outpost Keating in eastern Afghanistan were anything but ordinary.
That day, according to a report published by U.S. Army historian Richard S. Lowry, Taliban fighters launched a coordinated attack on the outpost from three sides at about 6 a.m., capturing its ammunition depot.
Some 300 enemy fighters participated in the attack armed with a recoilless rifle, rocket-propelled grenades, mortars, machine guns and small arms, badly outnumbering the International Security Assistance Force presence of about 85 U.S. Army, Afghan National Army and Latvian Army soldiers and the 35 Afghan soldiers who abandoned their positions. It would later be known as the Battle of Kamdesh.
During the first three hours of the fight, U.S. troops remained under intense mortar and small arms fire, before the Taliban fighters breached the compound and set fire to it. Romesha moved under heavy fire to reconnoiter the area and seek reinforcements from a nearby barracks, helping the ISAF force to regroup and fight despite being targeted by a Taliban sniper.
Romesha led the firefight to reclaim the depot, organizing a five-man team to counterattack while still under fire. He then neutralized one of the Taliban fighters' machine gun teams. While engaging a second, he took cover behind a generator which was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade. Romesha was wounded in the neck, shoulder and arms by shrapnel. Despite being wounded, Romesha directed air support that killed an estimated 30 Taliban and then took out several more Taliban positions.
He provided suppressive fire to allow three other wounded American Soldiers to reach an aid station and then recovered several American casualties while still under fire.
Romesha's efforts allowed the troop to regroup and fight off a force superior in numbers. The fight lasted 12 hours, and eight American Soldiers were killed. Nine Soldiers were decorated with Silver Star Medals for the fight, which was one of the costliest for ISAF forces during the war.
"Not every day do you see nine Silver Stars come out of one firefight," Romesha said. "It was hard work and compassion for each other that put us on top. I get a lot of the attention now, but if it wasn't for them, I wouldn't be here now. I'll never forget the sacrifices of the eight we lost and the sacrifices of Soldiers we've lost in the past during the Global War on Terrorism."
Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Raymond Odierno took time to honor Romesha during the 4th Infantry Division's monument dedication ceremony, calling him a prime example of what the modern generation of Soldier is capable of.
"It is one of the great privileges of my position as chief of staff of the Army to honor Soldiers like Clint," Odierno said. "He is representative of the tens of thousands of young veterans who have shown the American people and the world that a new greatest generation of American Soldiers has emerged during the last 12 years of war."
Despite his individual accomplishments that day, Romesha has repeatedly insisted that the actions of his squadmates were what ultimately saved his life and earned him the Medal of Honor.
"Everything you do in the military is based on a team," he said. "There are individual awards and individual achievements, but when you boil it down, being part of a team is why we joined the military and that's why America is such a great nation. We draw from each other's strengths and weaknesses. We feed off those. For me, that day was a team effort. Without the rest of the platoon doing their part and without Soldiers who believed in me and what I was doing, it wouldn't have been possible. I was just doing a job just like they were."
As such, he said he wears his medal not in memory of his own accomplishments, but in honor of the Soldiers who never returned home from the Global War on Terror.
"When I wear this, this isn't for me," he said. "I'm just kind of the caretaker for the time being. I wear it for the Soldiers who never made it back, for the veterans of past wars and for the Soldiers who are out there now still going overseas on deployment and still standing up for democracy and the Constitution."