NEW YORK CITY -- A Fort Drum Soldier currently assigned to 3rd Battalion, 85th Infantry Regiment, Warrior Transition Unit, received the George Van Cleave Military Leadership Award at the 51st Annual USO Armed Forces Gala and Gold Medal Dinner held Thursday at a hotel in New York City's Times Square.

Spc. Bryan D. Dilberian Jr., who lost both of his legs and one arm after stepping on a land mine in Afghanistan during a combat dismounted patrol with "Dog" Company, 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, was understandably astounded after being notified by his former commander, Capt. Luther Beazley, that he was selected for the prestigious award.

"I was surprised; I couldn't speak at first, I had no words," Dilberian said. "It was pretty nice to be recognized for all the stuff I had done."

The award is given to service members who demonstrate exceptional service and dedication to their country. They are nominated by their chain of command.

"The battalion sergeant major became aware of the award and contacted the first sergeant," Beazley said. "It's based on everything that he has done for the company, so we completed the packet."

The packets, which include extensive personal biographies and a narrative summarizing the service member's accomplishments, are completed by leadership and submitted to a selection body.

Dilberian not only demonstrated the embodiment of the award's ideals to his leaders and fellow Soldiers, he also demonstrated his unwavering dedication to them and his relentless drive by working to get back into action as a M-240L machine gunner, despite his physical limitations.
"I did things that a normal triple amputee (doesn't) normally do," Dilberian said. "(I) got back to the field, got back on the gun."

Like many other Soldiers, Dilberian was motivated to join the Army by the terrorist attacks that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001; however, he was compelled to serve with a greater urgency because, as a native of Brooklyn, he took the attack on his city very personally.

"A couple of guys put some planes into my city, my territory," Dilberian said. "So I felt that I should be doing what every other Brooklynite should be doing, to get out there and join the infantry and go get those guys."

The "Chosin" Soldier made it clear that it is his intent to continue serving in whatever capacity he can. Although his preference would be to continue serving on active duty with an infantry unit, he plans to go to work anywhere where he feels he can continue making a difference.

"I have a few things that come to mind, although I am still getting it together," Dilberian said, "like working for the United Nations, the Supreme Court or with Vietnam veterans, or as an assistant for the secretary of defense."

The award ceremony at the 51st USO Armed Forces Gala and Gold Medal Dinner was the culmination of a three-day stay that included meals at well-known city eateries, an opportunity to visit the 9/11 Memorial and a VIP tour of the Museum of Natural History to honor the awardees.

Through all of the attention that Dilberian has received, he has remained focused on the formidable challenges that lay ahead him. Whether it is his upcoming medical retirement or making that all-important decision of what to do with his life after the Army, he approaches whatever obstacles face him with his characteristic resolve and "lead from the front" mentality.

"Infantrymen will always be infantrymen," Beazley said. "Some guys slow down, they don't keep after it. Dilberian is a very motivated guy and has done more for the company than the company has done for him. That's the mentality of the true infantryman."