By Sgt. Larry Barnhill, USASOC PAONovember 15, 2019
FORT BRAGG, North Carolina -- In the past 30 years of U. S. Army Special Operations Command history, 10 American heroes from within its ranks were awarded the Medal of Honor, our Nation's highest award for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of their own lives above and beyond the call of duty.
The President, in the name of Congress, has awarded more than 3,400 Medals of Honor to our Nation's bravest Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen since the decoration's creation in 1861.
Of the 10 USASOC Medal of Honor recipients, four were for actions taken while fighting in the War in Afghanistan, four from the Vietnam War and two from operations in Somalia.
The most recent recipient, Master Sgt. Matthew O. Williams, 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), was awarded the MOH by President Donald J. Trump during a ceremony at the White House on October 30, 2019.
Williams was honored for actions taken during Operation COMMANDO WRATH, a fierce battle in Shok Valley, Nuristan Province, Afghanistan in April 2008.
Retired Staff Sgt. Ronald J. Shurer, who was awarded the MOH, October 1, 2018, fought in the aforementioned battle alongside Williams.
According to their MOH citations, Williams and Shurer risked their lives to save several Soldiers and Afghan commandos during this . They led Afghan commandos across a river and up a cliff and established firing positions, while Shurer moved through enemy fire to treat and evacuate wounded Soldiers to a casualty collection point he set up at the base of the mountain. During the nearly six hour firefight, they moved injured Soldiers to the casualty collection point while under rifle, machine gun and rocket propelled grenade fire.
The spring of 2008 is when another battle in Afghanistan would end with an Army Ranger fighting gallantly, losing his hand and later earning a MOH.
Retired Master Sgt. Leroy A. Petry was awarded the MOH for valor while assigned to 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment by then President Barack Obama at a White House ceremony July 12, 2011.
Then Staff Sgt. Petry, according to his award citation, led a wounded fellow Ranger to cover, while wounded himself, and throwing a live grenade back at the enemy force which saved the lives of three other Rangers in the Paktya Province, Afghanistan May 26, 2008. Petry also lost his hand that day because of the grenade exploding as he threw it back to the enemy.
Prior to the Afghanistan war battles in which Petry, Shurer and Williams earned their respective Medals of Honor, a USASOC operator gave the ultimate sacrifice in a January 2008 firefight, saving the lives of 22 other Soldiers.
Staff Sgt. Robert J. Miller was posthumously awarded the MOH October 6, 2010 for actions taken during a battle in Konar Province, Afghanistan January 25, 2008.
According to Miller's MOH citation, while serving as a Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha weapons sergeant, charged into overwhelming enemy fire from more than 100 insurgents to provide protective fire for his team. Despite being mortally wounded, Miller continued to expose himself to draw fire away from his teammates, saving the lives of seven fellow operators and 15 Afghan National Army Soldiers.
The Battle of Mogadishu, according an October 2018 Army Times article, is viewed as a tactical success because a force of about 100 Americans held off more than 1,000 Somali insurgents in intense combat.
Two USASOC snipers gave their lives in this battle, protecting the pilot and crew of a Blackhawk helicopter that crashed in the city.
Master Sgt. Gary Gordon and Sgt. 1st Class Randall Shughart were posthumously awarded the MOH in September of 1994 for actions taken in an October 3, 1993 battle in Mogadishu, Somalia.
According to their MOH citations, Gordon and Shughart, USASOC snipers team members, fought their way through a dense maze of shanties and shacks, under intense enemy fire, to reach the critically injured crew members; pulled the pilot and the other crew members from the crashed aircraft, establishing a perimeter which placed him and his fellow sniper in the most vulnerable position.
More than 58,000 Americans were killed during the Vietnam War which lasted nearly two decades, four of which were USASOC Soldiers who later received the MOH.
Gary M. Rose was awarded the MOH October 23, 2017 by President Donald J. Trump for actions taken during a September, 1970 battle that lasted several days during the Vietnam War.
According to then Sgt. Rose's MOH citation, serving as a 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Medic, exposed himself multiple times treating, moving and loading friendly casualties onto evacuation helicopters as well as repelling enemy fire for helicopter extractions and saving the life of the Marine door-gunner who was shot on the helicopter during the evacuation.
Retired Master Sgt. Jose Rodela was awarded the MOH by then President Barack Obama at a White House ceremony March 18, 2014 for actions taken during combat operations in Phuoc Long Province, Republic of Vietnam September 1, 1969.
According to then Sgt. 1st Class Rodela's MOH citation, while serving as a company commander in 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), exposed himself to intense enemy fire while providing suppressing fire, assisting wounded comrades and destroying an enemy rocket.
Retired Sgt. 1st Class Melvin Morris was awarded the MOH by then President Barack Obama at a White House ceremony March 18, 2014 for actions taken during combat in the vicinity of Chi Lang, Republic of Vietnam September 17, 1969.
According to then Strike Force Commander Staff Sgt. Morris' citation, he charged into enemy fire, destroyed four enemy bunkers, and was wounded three times while recovering the body of a fallen comrade.
Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Bennie G. Adkins was awarded the MOH by then President Barack Obama during a White House ceremony September 15, 2014 for actions taken in a battle at Camp A Shau, Republic of Vietnam March 9 - 12, 1966.
According to then Sgt. 1st Class Adkins' MOH citation, after being wounded by intense enemy fire, he repeatedly exposed himself to sniper, machine gun and mortar fire to move wounded Soldiers to safety as well as, with a small group of men, fought off North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong forces until they were rescued two days later.
USASOC warriors have gone and continue to go above and beyond the call of duty to defend the United States in combat theaters worldwide. The 10 warriors who have received the MOH within the last 30 years are among the ranks of American heroes who willingly put themselves in harm's way to protect their comrades and the American way of life.