By Department of DefenseFebruary 7, 2007
Urban combat often devolves into a series of actions that traverse winding streets and narrow alleys--sometimes for hours. That was certainly the case for Sgt. 1st Class Stephens on June 24, 2004, in Baqubah. That morning, Stephens and his platoon were called in to assist another platoon taking heavy fire from insurgents. Stephens's platoon helped the others fight through the engagement and then proceeded further into Baqubah. And then they ran into the first ambush of the day. His company commander was severely wounded, and elements of the company disengaged to evacuate him--leaving an even slimmer force. Undaunted, Stephens's platoon fought through the ambush and continued the offensive as it wound through the city.
Then came a second ambush. In a barrage of fire from all directions, one of the Bradleys was disabled by an RPG round--leaving a wounded man trapped in the open. As enemies continued to pour down a heavy stream of fire, Stephens leapt from his vehicle and sprinted 50 meters in the open to reach the injured soldier. As rounds ricocheted off the metal, Stephens climbed into the open hatch to pull the soldier out of the wrecked vehicle. Medics crouched on the protected side of the vehicle, and Stephens lowered the injured man to them. He then ran back across the open space, dodging the enemies' fire. Stephens rallied his men and pushed on through the city, repelling numerous attacks as they evacuated the wounded soldier. Despite an injury, Stephens led his men to the opposite side of the city to a nearby base, where they hoped to save their downed man. Unfortunately, his wounds were too grave. For his selfless act in retrieving a fellow soldier while under enemy fire, Stephens was awarded the Silver Star on Oct. 22, 2006.