Former Staff Sergeant Clinton L. Romesha was awarded the Medal of Honor this past February for “conspicuous gallantry,” risking his life above and beyond the call of duty, in Afghanistan, on Oct. 3, 2009. Having twice deployed to Iraq, and then to Afghanistan, Romesha was serving at Combat Outpost Keating, in Afghanistan’s Nuristan province, when the outpost was attacked by more than 300 Taliban-led fighters, occupying high ground on all sides, out-numbering the troops at Keating by more than five-to-one, and wielding small arms, rifles, mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and anti-aircraft machine guns. The soldiers at Keating fought back in what became a 12-hour battle. Romesha was wounded by shrapnel, but went on fighting, continually exposing himself to enemy fire, killing more than 10 of the Taliban-led fighters himself, calling in coordinates for critical air strikes, leading efforts to provide covering fire for injured comrades, and braving overwhelming fire to recover the bodies of the fallen.
Romesha was just one of the veterans who received an award this past Saturday at a banquet in Washington hosted by the American Veterans Center. Also among the awardees was Chester Nez, the last surviving member of the Navajo Code Talkers. As the web site dedicated to them describes it:
They were young Navajo men who transmitted secret communications on the battlefields of WWII” — using encryption based on the Navajo language to send signals the enemy could not crack. From 1942-1945, vital to the American war effort, from Guadalcanal to Iwo Jima, they served in every major battle in the Pacific Theater.
Also receiving an award was Lt.-Gen. Frank E Petersen, Jr., the first black aviator and general in the history of the U.S. Marine Corps. Petersen served in the Korean War, flying 64 combat missions, and earning the Distinguished Flying Cross and six air medals. He went on to serve in Vietnam, where he flew 250 combat missions, was shot down and rescued, and led a Marine Fighter Attack Squadron, the Black Knights, which received the 1968 Hanson Award for “best squadron in the USMC.”