By Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Ray OdiernoApril 13, 2012
Good afternoon everyone. Thanks everyone for coming, many of you from miles away, to pay tribute to a distinguished American who so selflessly risked his life to save others. We recognize today Sgt. Felipe Pereira for his extraordinary actions in the face of adversity and a determined enemy.
I had the opportunity to meet with Sgt. Pereira just before this, and I'm impressed with this exceptional young man. Just two years ago, he became a U.S. citizen. He is a patriot through and through, to both the United States and his native country Brazil. I know it is not easy to have to relive November 1st, 2010, but we are all here because your actions distinguished you as a hero, and the reality is there are people alive today because of those actions, some of them here outside.
We're honored to have Sgt. Pereira's family with us, who flew over 5,000 miles from Brazil to be here today:
Sgt. Pereira's mother: Senora Denise Pereira
Sgt. Pereira's father: Senor Paulo Pereira
Sgt. Pereira's younger sister: Stefanie Pereira.
Now Stephanie, I was told you love to scuba dive and were considering joining the Navy. Let me tell you that the U.S. Army will welcome you with open arms, as I know we could use another Pereira in our ranks. It was wonderful to meet you all, and I'm so glad you could make it.
I understand that Sgt. Pereira is also a newlywed so welcome Ms. Candi Melton Pereira. Candi, it was an honor to meet you earlier. Thank you for being here. It's wonderful that your family -- from Somerset, Kentucky -- were able to make it, so welcome to your mother, Nancy Melton; sister, Andrea, and nieces Amber and Aliegh.
And a warm welcome to all distinguished guests--and to all friends of the 101st Airborne Division, and the Fort Campbell community who have come to show your support.
And welcome to Mr. Don Jenkins. Don served with the 9th Infantry Division in Vietnam, and as a young PFC, he repeatedly put his life on the life, repeatedly exposed himself to the enemy under heavy fire to rescue other wounded Soldiers, just like Sgt. Pereira. As a result of his valorous actions, he was promoted to SSG, and was awarded the Medal of Honor in 1971. Thank you Don, for setting the example, and for living life as a professional Soldier, willing to sacrifice your life. Thank you for your patriotism and service.
What a distinct honor it is to be able to recognize this outstanding professional and honorable warfighter, to give due recognition for undaunted bravery and demonstrated courage under fire. It is events like this Award Ceremony that make this job as the Army Chief of Staff so rewarding, being humbled by Soldiers like Sgt. Pereira, adding to the legends of the 101st and to the legends of the U.S. Army.
When he was seventeen years old, back in 2000, Sgt. Pereira left his native Brazil and immigrated to the United States to attend the English as a Second Language program at Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska. This is amazing to me -- to consider that just twelve years ago, this decorated Soldier was living on another continent, and spoke little English, and today he is recognized as a National hero in his adopted country. He has chosen to serve his adopted country with valor and integrity. Six years ago, he was working as a lab tech for the Entomology Department at the University of Nebraska. To pay for school, he worked as a self-defense instructor which introduced his passion for "fighting and combat," that eventually allured him to join the Army three years later.
He said he was both "lucky and blessed" to have his first assignment be the Alpha "Hard Rock" Company, "First Strike" Battalion, in the 502nd "Strike" Brigade, 101st Airborne Division Air Assault, the "tip of the spear" he calls it. And he's absolutely right. Not just anyone gets the prestige of being a Screaming Eagle. And so with one year in the Army, he deployed to Afghanistan in May of 2010. With just over two years in the Army, Sgt. Pereira was identified as a clear leader-- with his competitive nature, drive to excel (and win), undeterred motivation and team spirit.
What happened in Sahnjaray, Zhari District, Afghanistan on November 1st 2010 was the ultimate test of his skills, leadership and inner fortitude. In that defining moment, Sgt. Pereira's actions will be forever etched in our Nation's history, to be remembered and studied by service members, scholars, and historians in all the years to come. Despite the best efforts of Sgt. Pereira and the remaining members of his squad from Hard Rock Company during the lethal and resounding attacks by the enemy, two 'First Strike' Soldiers lost their lives. Spc. Curtis and Pfc. Meari will never be forgotten, nor will their legacies and their sacrifices. But because of the instinctive determinations of Sgt. Pereira in the initial aftermath of the IED attack and then again under heavy enemy fire, the lives of the rest of his squad were saved.
But not without a heavy cost. 8 Purple Hearts, 1 Silver Star, 1 Bronze Star Medal with valor, and 4 Army Commendation Medals with valor, in addition to Sgt. Pereira's Distinguished Service Cross, were awarded to his fellow squad members from the attacks that day. That's how I define our Army, Soldiers being there for Soldiers.
The more I have come to learn about Sgt. Pereira's story, the more I am inspired by it. Those who worked and fought at his side expected nothing less from him, as they have said he gave his all in everything he did. His actions were in keeping with the highest ideals of the Warrior Ethos. Ignoring his own safety, forgetting his own pain, he defied the blizzard of gunfire, blazing through the smoke, the bullets and the chaos to help his fellow Soldiers in their time of need. Such is the ethos of our American Soldier. And such was the ethos of Sgt. Pereira.
Sgt. 1st Class Allison, Sgt. Pereira's former platoon sergeant, said that even as a Specialist, he was always, always 'leading from the front, embodying the Army Values and Ethos in everything he did." He was the first to volunteer on each mission, and was the first responder in every situation, constantly on watch for his battle buddies on his left and right flank. Shortly before the attack on November 1st, a grenade blast left Sgt. Pereira wounded, and his former Company Commander, CPT Nicholas Stout, recalled that "he checked to make sure everyone was all right, then noticed he was injured, and just said casually, in conversation: "Oh hey guys. I'm hit. Gotta Go." He was bandaged and back out on patrol just hours later, earning his first Purple Heart very shortly into his first deployment.
There is a Portuguese proverb that says "Live to live, and you will learn to live." Who better to exemplify this than Sgt. Pereira, whose actions placed him in the thick of the fight, not just once but twice. This is a man who has lived to live, and through his heroic acts of valor, inspired and allowed others to live as well. Upon hearing that he was nominated for the Distinguished Service Cross, and most of you already know that it is second only to the Medal of Honor -- the highest valor award the military gives, he said he doesn't believe he deserves it. And he repeated this again when I just talked with him. He has said that "his squad all fought together, it was one effort. That medal is for all of us."
Sgt. Pereira, the Distinguished Service Cross you will soon wear is yours.
Wear it with remembrance, in knowing that the blood of your two friends was not shed in vain.
Wear it with pride, knowing that you have earned it with the approval of your peers, your chain of command, Army leadership, and the Commander in Chief
Wear it with distinction, knowing there are only 164 other Screaming Eagle Soldiers in the 70-year history of the 101st Airborne Division that have been awarded this prestigious badge of courage.
Wear it with honor, knowing you represent something greater than yourself when you don that uniform, and you were awarded this honor because you went above and beyond the call of duty, selflessly rescuing other Soldiers before tending to your own injuries.
And wear it proudly, knowing that your medal represents the thanks of a grateful Nation.
I am very proud of you. I want to your parents to know they did a terrific job raising their son with such a sense of duty and ethical values. God bless you for your esteemed honor, leadership, integrity, personal courage and selfless service. You have made me appreciate just how fortunate we are as a country to have men and women who not only believe in the values and ideals that this country stands for, but are willing to fight for them. I want to thank everyone for coming here to share in this incredibly special day.
The strength of our Nation is our Army
The strength of our Army is our Soldiers
The strength of our Soldiers is our Families.
This is what makes us Army Strong!