Patriot Brigade warrior awarded Silver Star
May 1, 2012
FORT POLK, La. (May 1, 2012) -- A sergeant was awarded the Silver Star today for clearing a basement of insurgents in Afghanistan and directing the medical evacuation of wounded comrades during a firefight.
Sgt. M. Joshua Ryan Laughery, 2/4th Infantry, 4th Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, was presented the Silver Star by Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno, in a ceremony held at the Patriot Brigade's Glory Chapel.
"It's inspirational and motivating," said Odierno. "It's why I've served the Army for 36 years. It's because I get to stand side by side with men like Sgt. Laughery, who believe what we all believe in and that's our profession of arms."
While deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Laughery's platoon was conducting a routine battle damage assessment mission in the unit's sector of operation Sept. 12, 2011. During the mission, his platoon came under heavy insurgent fire.
"We had dropped a bomb on some insurgents out there," Laughery said, "So we went into sector to make sure Devil Company wasn't in the wrong for doing so and gather what intelligence we could from the area because a friendly outpost had been receiving rocket attacks from there. As we moved into the area to do that, our patrol came under enemy fire. Our platoon leader, squad leader and team leader took dismounts into one area to seek out the enemy as my vehicle came under attack from another enemy position."
After returning fire in the initial engagement, Laughery moved his vehicle forward in an attempt to rendezvous with the rest of the patrol and return to their outpost when they came upon a civilian who seemed nervous and pointing around a corner. After a few questions and breaking through the language barrier, Laughery's platoon leader discovered that the Afghan was trying to help by signaling to the Soldiers that the insurgents firing upon them were just around that corner.
The team sent a dismounted element on foot to investigate with Laughery remaining in the vehicle manning the machine gun. Only moments later they heard fragmentation grenades go off and a call for a medic came over the radio. With the medic out of the vehicle on his way to the dismounts, Laughery began maneuvering his truck down the alley and as he made his way through, another fragmentation grenade went off and he came upon injured members of his patrol.
Laughery then manned the radio and began calling for air support and a quick reactionary force as he assessed the situation in front of him. One insurgent was dead and he had his vehicle driver jump out of the truck to help render aid to the downed Soldiers. Once he received word that the air support was unable to assist, Laughery exited his vehicle and began taking charge of the actions on ground.
As Laughery began coordinating casualty evacuation efforts, he assisted in loading wounded onto one of the mine-resistant vehicles and saw that one insurgent was lying dead among the chaos. As the Soldiers loaded the wounded and their equipment, Laughery heard his platoon leader telling him there was someone in a basement-like room near them. So Laughery looked to one of his Soldiers and said, "Go for it." Laughery then, grabbing the nearest weapon and a small light went into the basement with his Soldier.
As he came down the steps into the pitch black, the light barely providing enough sight into the room, Laughery saw an insurgent on a knee, reaching for his AK-47 to take aim. Without thought Laughery began firing with his comrade firing over his shoulder, eliminating the enemy who was barely more than a few feet in front of him.
"We stopped firing but someone else was still shooting." Laughery said. "So I pushed my guy out of the basement and as I came out, I yelled for someone to frag the hole." With that, the Soldiers threw a fragmentation and incendiary grenade into the basement as Laughery grabbed another rifle and made his way back down alone.
"The incendiary was still burning off and as I came to a corner in the room I peeked around and another insurgent began shooting at me, so I returned fire. Afterward I got out of the hole and handed the rifle back to one of the Soldiers and told our guys that we had to go and we had to go now." And with that, Laughery, leaving the situation in the hands of the now arrived QRF, got his squad back to their outpost where medical personnel were awaiting the casualties to render aid and evacuate those in need.
Silence fell upon the ceremony's attendees as the story was told to them. Laughery sat humbly with his family and Devil Company standing in strength in the background.
"I've said many times, war is a personal thing. It's about the person to your right or left, it's about the person in front or behind you. It's about that inherent trust that you have in each other. That you know if you wear this uniform that someone is always there for you. You're there with each other all the way. We will never leave a fallen comrade and Sgt. Laughery epitomizes that."
(Staff Sgt. Eric Rodriguez serves as a Public Affairs NCO for 4th Brigade, 10th Mountain Division.)