FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. (Army News Service, Feb. 28, 2007) - Just more than 200 Silver Stars have been awarded for Operation Iraqi Freedom since it began in 2003, and three of them now belong to Soldiers from one Fort Campbell platoon.
The 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, returned in November from the streets of Ramadi, Iraq, with stories of heroism. When a barrage of small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades pierced the night silence on March 13, Staff Sgt. Jeremy Wilzcek, Spc. Jose Alvarez and Spc. Gregory Pushkin discovered how they would react in an intense, deadly situation.
"I immediately freaked out," said Alvarez, who was able to regain his composure upon seeing his comrade, Staff Sgt. Marco Silva, incapacitated in the middle of the street.
Alvarez left cover and ran into the kill zone. He covered his buddy's body with his own and returned fire on the enemy. "I snatched him up and started dragging him away," Alvarez said.
While Alvarez dragged Silva to the safety of cover, two pieces of shrapnel plunged into his leg. "I was pretty laid out," he said.
Nevertheless, Alvarez quickly returned to the fight after receiving battlefield aid.
Pushkin and Wilzcek also darted into the line of fire, risking their own lives, to retrieve wounded comrades.
Pushkin kicked down the door of a home to provide cover for injured troops reeling from the intensity of the ambush. He laid down suppressive fire, then, he and Wilzcek pushed their way to a pair of troops pinned down and injured.
"Training took over," Pushkin said. "My mind just shut down, and I focused on what was in front of me, I had no sense of time at all."
After receiving their Silver Star from 101st Airborne Division Commander Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Schloesser at Lozada Gym on Fort Campbell Feb. 15, the three heroes were still humble about the actions that earned them the award for "gallantry in action."
"I feel honored to be recognized, but there are a lot of people in Iraq doing the same thing," Wilczek said.
Though the three downplay their acts of courage, Sgt. Michael Row has a much different take on the events of that night. "I was trapped in the street, and they pulled me out of there," Row said.
"All three men risked their lives numerous times to come to the aid of their comrades," said Lt. Col. Ron Clark, 1st Bn., 506th Inf. Reg., commander.
Schloesser also awarded 14 Bronze Stars with Valor to other unit members during the same ceremony. In all, nearly 200 awards were given to the Band of Brothers Soldiers, including 87 Purple Hearts and 91 Army Commendation Medals with Valor.
(Pfc. Paul David Ondik writes for the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 505th Infantry Regiment.)