By Jacqueline M. HamesMay 23, 2008
ARLINGTON, Va. (Army News Service, May 23, 2008) - Two Soldiers who earned the Bronze Star in Iraq are among four Army grand marshals for the National Memorial Day Parade May 26.
Chief Warrant Officer 4 Michael Zanders and Staff Sgt. John Aughtman will appear on the "Heroes of Today" float, along with two other Soldiers: Captains Robert Holcroft and Hayes Preston.
The National Memorial Day Parade will start at 2 p.m. on the corner of Constitution Ave. and 7th Street, NW. It will proceed down Constitution and pass the White House before ending at 17th Street. The parade honors those that have served in uniform from the American Revolution to Operation Iraqi Freedom and seeks to educate the public about Memorial Day, according to the American Veterans Center, who sponsors the parade.
Aughtman Provides Medical Aid
While on his most recent deployment in Iraq, Aughtman was conducting combat patrols and raids to remove high-value targets. On one such mission, he and two other Soldiers in his squad were struck by a grenade. Aughtman said they were driving through a city when a grenade came out of an alley, striking their vehicle. All the Soldiers received various shrapnel wounds, he said.
Aughtman provided emergency aid to two Soldiers and himself, asking the gunner to perform security, before evacuating to their forward operating base.
Though in great danger, Aughtman said he wasn't really scared.
"Instinct just kind of took over," he said, indicating that his training as an emergency medical technician prepared him well. "You're basically just ready for it."
In addition to the Bronze Star, Aughtman was awarded the Purple Heart, but he is modest about the honors. "I was just doing my job," he said.
Zanders Performs Dangerous Rescue
In April, Zanders received a call to assist a combat outpost that was under attack. Zanders, flying a Kiowa Warrior, went to aid the outpost with another Kiowa. Both helicopters engaged in the firefight immediately, but after a few minutes the sister ship took hostile fire and was forced to make an emergency landing.
Zanders, conducting a maneuver that had never been performed in combat, landed beside the other helicopter and indicated the pilot and copilot should strap themselves to the weapons struts of his Kiowa-he would fly them back to the FOB attached to the outside of the helicopter.
The weapons struts are "halfway toward the back, and they stick out," Zanders explained. The Soldiers straddled the weapons struts and secured themselves using their D-rings, he said, and they flew back to the FOB at full speed.
"It was just instinct," Zanders said, "I'm sure any other Kiowa pilot would have done the same."
Zanders received the Distinguished Flying Cross in addition to the Bronze Star for his service, and like Aughtman, he is humble about the accomplishment.
"It's a privilege and an honor," Zanders said, "but to me it was just doing my job."
Zanders was both happy and surprised to be asked to be a grand marshal. He thought he would just be marching in the parade, instead of being featured on the primary float.
"I actually just found out-I'm very honored for that," he said.
Aughtman was also quite excited. He said being a grand marshal would be "pretty cool."
"My family is going to get to come along this time, and that's going to be nice," Aughtman added.