FORT BRAGG, N.C. (Army News Service, May 1, 2008) - A 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Soldier was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross during a ceremony here Wednesday for valorous actions during Operation Enduring Freedom.
A 20-year veteran, Master Sgt. Brendan O'Connor, formerly a senior medic on a 2nd Battalion, 7th SFG (A) Operational Detachment Alpha, was presented the award while he stood before family, friends, and fellow Soldiers.
"For the men who were with him that day, Master Sergeant O'Connor is a savior," said Adm. Eric T. Olson, commander of United States Special Operations Command, who presented the award to O'Connor.
"For all Americans, he is a hero, and for all members of special operations across the services, he is a source of enormous pride," he said.
O'Connor was instrumental in keeping his team alive during an intense battle with more than 250 Taliban fighters in southern Afghanistan on June 22, 2006. While making a temporary stop during a patrol, his team and their attached Afghan National Army soldiers were attacked from all sides with small-arms fire, heavy machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades, recoilless rifles and mortars.
During the 17 1/2 hours of sustained combat that followed, O'Connor and his team fought off wave after wave of Taliban attackers from a group of small compounds, fighting for their lives against insurgents who were intent on killing or capturing the beleaguered defenders. Much of the combat was so close that the defenders of the compounds could hear cursing and taunting from the enemies who swarmed the perimeter.
After hearing two Soldiers were wounded at another location, O'Connor removed his body armor and low-crawled under heavy machine gun fire to treat and extract his wounded comrades. O'Connor then carried a wounded Soldier back to a safer area, again passing through intense fire. One teammate commented that as he was crawling, machine gun fire "mowed the grass" around him.
"I don't think that what I did was particularly brave," said O'Connor. "My friend needed help and I had the opportunity to help him, so I did. I think I'm lucky to get this sort of recognition; there are so many other Soldiers who do similarly brave things overseas and are happy with just a pat on the back when they get home."
O'Connor is the second Soldier to be awarded the DSC for actions taken in Operation Enduring Freedom. The first was a 5th Special Forces Group Soldier, Maj. Mark Mitchell in 2003. Before Mitchell there had been none since the Vietnam War. The DSC is the second highest award for valor, surpassed only by the Medal of Honor.
"I've never been more honored, but this medal belongs to my whole team," said O'Connor.
"Every member was watching out for the other, inspiring each other, and for some, sacrificing for each other. We all fought hard, and it could just as easily be any one of them standing up here getting it pinned on; every one of them is a hero," he said.