By Joe LacdanOctober 1, 2018
WASHINGTON -- Ten years after a fateful battle in Afghanistan's Shok Valley, Medal of Honor recipient Retired Staff Sgt. Ron Shurer II turned to 11 of his unit members from that fight as they sat inside the Pentagon's auditorium Tuesday.
"I'll always be grateful to serve alongside you guys," said Shurer, who was inducted into the Defense Department's Hall of Heroes Tuesday morning. "It was tough. But I was glad I could be there for you on that day."
Retired Staff Sgt. Dillon Behr, whom Shurer medically treated for gunshot wounds to his leg and hip, attended the ceremony. Also present were Retired Staff Sgt. Luis Morales, Sgt. 1st Class Matt Williams, Retired Sgt. 1st Class Karl Wurzbach, Lt. Col. Kyle Walton, former Spc. Mike Carter, Sgt. 1st Class Seth Howard and Sgt. Maj. Dan Plants. Also attending were two Afghan translators from Shurer's unit, Bahroz "Blade" Mohmand and Zia "Booyah" Ghafoori.
"We worked together as a tight-knit family," Shurer said. "We trusted one another. And we shared a bond that is far greater than words can describe. We are truly brothers."
The day before, President Trump awarded Shurer the Medal of Honor in a White House ceremony.
Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan and Secretary of the Army Mark Esper lauded the former Green Beret's bravery during a battle with insurgents in support of Operation Enduring Freedom on April 6, 2008. There, Shurer and his Special Forces team members braved a furious barrage of rocket-propelled grenades and machine-gun and rifle fire from 200 insurgents. Shurer's bravery, which included treating four critically-wounded U.S. Soldiers, helped the unit survive the fierce battle with no American casualties.
"This was a level of intensity that few have ever experienced," said Gen. Mark Milley, chief of staff of the Army. "Not a single American Soldier or Afghan soldier was left behind. And that is largely due to Ron Shurer. It's an incredible story … an incredible example of selfless courage and duty."
On an early spring morning in 2008, Shurer traveled to a remote location inside the rugged Hindu Kush mountain range while assigned to the 3rd Special Forces Group. As insurgents peppered Shurer's Special Forces unit, the medic rendered aid to multiple U.S. and Afghan troops while fighting his way up a mountain, dodging enemy fire.
"When the battle broke out, he ran to the sound of the guns," Esper said. "When his comrades were hurt, he provided medical aid under intense enemy fire. When it seemed like there was no way out, he found a way.
"Your bravery, valor and courage are an inspiration to us all."
After learning insurgents had trapped his unit's forward-assault element near the mountain's base, the medic braved a flurry of gunfire to render assistance to the element's Soldiers. For more than five and a half hours, even after suffering wounds himself, Shurer continued to render aid while firing upon the enemy. Shurer shielded the injured with his own body.
"He was determined to do as much as he could for as long as he could," Shanahan said. "His devotion to them was absolute."
Shurer grabbed the nylon webbing the unit carried with them and used the material to lower injured troops down a steep, 60-foot cliff along the mountainside.
The seven hours of combat included 50 close air support runs, 4,579 cannon rounds, nine hellfire missiles shot, and 162 rockets fired. The harrowing battle resulted in the awarding of 10 Silver Stars. Trump announced last month that Shurer's Silver Star would be upgraded to the Medal of Honor.
"Your actions resonate across time and place, inspiring us," Shanahan said. "Our nation is forever indebted to you."
After receiving an honorable discharge from the Army in 2009, Shurer joined the ranks of the Secret Service, most recently serving on the Counter Assault Team. Shurer now faces a battle on a different front: he was diagnosed with lung cancer. But Shurer said he leans on support from his wife, Miranda and his two sons.
"Your constant support over the years has helped me keep going," Shurer said.
Shurer said the events of 9/11 inspired him to enlist in the Army as a combat medic. At the time, he was a graduate student at Washington State University. He later qualified for the U.S. Army Special Forces.