Reservist Recounts Silver Star Actions, Friends

By Wilson RiveraOctober 17, 2011

Reservist Recounts Silver Star Actions, Friends Compiled by Wilson A. Rivera Fort Bliss Monitor Jeremy Church left a Wisconsin Wal-Mart job in theft prevention early 2004 to serve in Iraq. While there on April 9, Army Spc. Jeremy Church became a unique hero after saving several of his fellow Soldiers' lives during an enemy attack in Baghdad. After the unit flew back home Feb. 27, 2005, he and 130 of his fellow Soldiers from 724th Transportation Company gathered with more than 440 family members at Fort McCoy, Wis., to so the U.S. Army Reserve could award its first Silver Star for the Global War on Terrorism - to him. Lt. Gen. James Helmly, chief of the Army Reserve at the time, pinned the medal on Church during the homecoming ceremony. Duty on April 9 started quietly around 11 a.m., with a 26-vehicle convoy heading from Balad to Baghdad International Airport for an emergency fuel delivery. Five miles from the airport, the typical hour-and-a-half trip dissolved into complete chaos. Then Pfc. Church and 1st Lt. Matt Brown, both in the lead vehicle, suddenly noticed the streets had turned eerily empty. Brown later noted there were no vehicles and no people on that stretch of road; unusual for Baghdad. The one person they did see was sprinting away from the road. Brown, as convoy commander, suddenly realized the gravity of the situation just as the small-arms fire began. "It was like a downpour on a tin roof," Brown said. "It was so noisy we couldn't talk: it was truly chaotic." Five minutes into the firefight, two bullets came through the windshield and struck Brown's Kevlar helmet just above his left eye. Had he not just turned to his right to try and locate the source of fire, he said the shots might have hit him directly in the face. Then an IED exploded, blowing out the front tire. Church continued firing at the enemy with his M-16 rifle while also navigating his vehicle on three inflated tires. When Church turned to ask Brown if he was OK, Brown met his question with a dazed look while he covered his eye with a blood-soaked hand. Brown later recalled that he hadn't been knocked out but was definitely disoriented. "I couldn't comprehend what was going on outside the vehicle. I couldn't focus past the windshield." Technically, that left Sgt. 1st Class Robert Groff in charge as the convoy commander, but he was at the rear of the convoy. In actuality, that duty fell to Church since he was driving the lead vehicle. He led the convoy for four miles into a secured perimeter that had been established by a cavalry company from 2nd Battalion, 12th Cavalry. "I knew I had the entire convoy behind me, and I knew they were following me," Church said. "They needed me to get them out of there." Church then rallied several Soldiers in the secured area and went back into the kill zone for the others. Church and other Soldiers launched an immediate recovery mission to aid the other Soldiers and civilians pinned down by enemy fire. Church identified the assistant commander's vehicle among the wreckage of burning fuel trucks and found two wounded Soldiers and four civilian truck drivers. He then immediately set up a hasty triage and administered first aid to a Soldier with a sucking chest wound. According to the citation lauding his heroics, he exposed himself to enemy fire when applying a bandage and continued to expose himself when he carried the Soldier over to one of the recovery vehicles. Realizing there wasn't enough room in the vehicles Church insisted that those who had wounded in their vehicles get back to safety, without him. Church instructed the cavalry troops to take the wounded back into the casualty collection point while he waited for their return. Ten minutes later, the recovery team returned and took Church from the kill zone. When the smoke of battle cleared, two 724th Transportation Company Soldiers had been killed; a third, Pfc. Keith "Matt" Maupin, had been taken alive and moved somewhere. Maupin would remain missing even after Church and the others of his unit redeployed back to Wisconsin. "I can't wait till Maupin gets back. It really helps out when people give him [their] prayers," said Church. "I know his family is going through a really hard time right now, much harder than we are." Maupin, a 20-year-old private first class at the time, was the only Soldier listed as captured in Iraq and has since been promoted to staff sergeant based on the possibility that he could still be alive and, as such, would most likely have made it to the rank of staff sergeant by now. The Army has promoted Maupin three times since his capture. Because nobody could find Maupin, he was immediately placed in an accountability status referred to as "Duty Status: Whereabouts Unknown." His status was later changed to "Missing-Captured." In an Army statement announcing Maupin's latest promotion to staff sergeant, officials cited the Warrior Ethos, "I will never leave a fallen comrade," adding that the Army remains committed to finding Maupin. "We have faith that he is following the Soldier's Creed and staying true to Army Values," said Maj. Annmarie Daneker, 88th Regional Readiness Command Public Affairs Office. "We hope for him to return soon. We'd like to put him back with his family." On March 29, an Armed Forces medical examiner did just that as some human remains recovered in Iraq were positively identified as belonging to Maupin, blessing the family with final closure. After finishing his 14-month deployment in February 2005, Church traveled home with a fresh six-year reenlistment contract in his hands. Most recently, he has been looking into hiring on with the U.S. Postal Service because, according to him, delivering mail seems a bit safer than delivering emergency fuel. (Text is compiled from contributions made by Samantha L. Quigley, American Forces Press Service and Staff Sgt. Chris Farley, Army News Service)

Related Links:

Maupin dedication

Silver Star Presentation