A young man who was asked in kindergarten what he wanted to be when he grew up, drew a picture of a soldier. Years later, in a horrific battle, he states, "I basically reconciled that I was going to die, and made my peace with it." This young man is Army Sgt. Ryan Pitts, a hero, and Medal Of Honor recipient.
Pitts' second tour in Afghanistan was for 15 months. In the summer of 2008 (his 14th month in Afghanistan), Pitts, then a 22-year-old sergeant, and his team were part of one last Operation before the soldiers were to head home.
"The Operation was called 'Rock Move,' which meant to transfer remaining forces and capability from Combat Outpost Bella to a new location on the outskirts of a village called Wanat. The new position was Vehicle Patrol Base Kahler. COP Bella was to be closed." according to Army.Mil.
The team had only been there a few days and were in the process of building their small base. The conditions were less than favorable as the heavy equipment they needed to help build their defenses had been delayed, along with the fact that they were running low on water in temperatures of over 100 degrees.
Then, around 4:20 am on July 13, Pitts was "manning Observation Post Topside, which was positioned east of the main base," according to Army.Mil. Suddenly, Soldiers spotted and identified potential insurgents.
As they were organizing a request for fire, machine-gun fire was heard from the north, immediately followed by a complete eruption of enemy fire in the valley. They were being attacked by close to 200 Taliban fighters as reported by Tom Bowman with NPR.
One soldier states it was one of the worst attacks in the Afghan war, as the soldiers were hit with small arms fire, rocket-propelled grenades and hand grenades. Those 200 Taliban fighters were firing from ridges, villages and trees -- every imaginable direction. "A hell on earth" as reported by one soldier.
Almost instantaneously, it seemed all the soldiers were wounded. Pitts had severe injuries to his left arm and both legs from grenade shrapnel, and was bleeding profusely. Yet, Pitts continued to fight for two hours despite his horrific condition. Pitts fought to protect his post and his teammates, as he watched these brave American soldiers fall around him.
As the insurgents moved in closer and closer, Pitts, crawling from one position to another, used live grenades to attack by pulling the pin, holding it in his hand and waiting until the last possible moment to throw it at his enemies -- knowing they had no time to toss it back. Pitts repeated this action over and over and over as reported by ABC News.
"Unable to stand, Ryan pulled himself up on his knees and manned a machine gun. Soldiers from the base below made a daring run, dodging bullets and explosions, and joined the defense. But now the enemy was inside the post — so close they were throwing rocks at the Americans, so close they came right up to the sandbags. Eight American soldiers had now fallen. And Ryan Pitts was the only living soldier at that post," Obama said per ABC News.
The enemy got so close that Pitts could hear their voices. "He whispered into the radio he was the only one left and was running out of ammo," Obama said.
Believing that he was most assuredly going to die, Pitts, barely conscious, prepared to make one last stance, hurling his last grenades, and firing a grenade launcher straight up into the air so that the grenade came back down on the Taliban just a few mere yards away.
As the battle continued and reinforcements came, Pitts continued to whisper into the radio, and was able to guide airstrikes which ultimately began to turn the battle around, and the Taliban began to withdraw.
Sgt. Ryan Pitts is being honored for his acts of valor and bravery by receiving the Medal Of Honor, the nation's highest military decoration. Pitts admitted during an interview with Here and Now Magazine that he was not happy when he first heard he was receiving this award because Pitts didn't believe he deserved it.
However, Pitts continued to say, "But time has allowed me to process it," Pitts said. "And this was a team effort. It belongs to every man there that day and I'll accept it on behalf of the team. It's not mine."
President Obama remembers the nine American soldiers who died that day by honoring their memory and telling about them during the ceremony. Obama says Ryan Pitts wants us to remember them. "Soldiers who loved each other like brothers and fought for each other -- and families who've made a sacrifice that our nation must never forget. Ryan says we owe it to them to live lives worthy of their sacrifice."
Those nine American Soldiers who died that day were: Spc. Sergio Abad, Cpl. Jonathan Ayers, Cpl. Jason Bogar, 1st Lt. Jonathan Brostrom, Sgt. Israel Garcia, Cpl. Jason Hovater, Cpl. Matthew Phillips, Cpl. Pruitt Rainey, and Cpl. Gunnar Zwilling.
We salute each of these soldiers for the sacrifice they made that day.
As Obama made his speech about the events that took place that day, he also recognized that Pitts was receiving his Medal Of Honor on the exact same day as his 2 year wedding anniversary to his wife, Amy.
Pitts admits according to NPR, "It's gonna be tough topping this one!" Obama offers advice having been married over twenty years himself by saying, "You should try -- I'm just saying... don't rest on your laurels just after two years." Somehow "resting on his laurels" doesn't seem to be an issue for Pitts.
Congratulations to Sgt. Ryan Pitts on receiving the Medal Of Honor, and thank you for your service to the United States of America.
Photo Credit: People.com