During 2019, Freedoms Foundation and the Friends of the Medal of Honor Grove are paying tribute to the living recipients of the Medal of Honor on the anniversary of the actions for which they earned the nation’s highest award for valor. The series continues with Staff Sgt. Clinton L. Romesha and the attack on Combat Outpost Keating in Nuristan Province, Afghanistan, on Oct. 3, 2009.
Clinton L. Romesha’s Medal of Honor citation reads:
“For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a Section Leader with Bravo Troop, 3d Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, during combat operations against an armed enemy at Combat Outpost Keating, Kamdesh District, Nuristan Province, Afghanistan on 3 October 2009.
“On that morning, Staff Sgt. Romesha and his comrades awakened to an attack by an estimated 300 enemy fighters occupying the high ground on all four sides of the complex, employing concentrated fire from recoilless rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, anti-aircraft machine guns, mortars, and small-arms fire. Staff Sgt. Romesha moved uncovered under intense enemy fire to conduct a reconnaissance of the battlefield and seek reinforcements from the barracks before returning to action with the support of an assistant gunner.
“Staff Sgt. Romesha took out an enemy machine gun team and, while engaging a second, the generator he was using for cover was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade, inflicting him with shrapnel wounds. Undeterred by his injuries, Staff Sgt. Romesha continued to fight and upon the arrival of another soldier to aid him and the assistant gunner, he again rushed through the exposed avenue to assemble additional soldiers. Staff Sgt. Romesha then mobilized a five-man team and returned to the fight equipped with a sniper rifle.
“With complete disregard for his own safety, Staff Sgt. Romesha continually exposed himself to heavy enemy fire, as he moved confidently about the battlefield engaging and destroying multiple enemy targets, including three Taliban fighters who had breached the combat outpost’s perimeter.
“While orchestrating a successful plan to secure and reinforce key points of the battlefield, Staff Sgt. Romesha maintained radio communication with the tactical operations center. As the enemy forces attacked with even greater ferocity, unleashing a barrage of rocket-propelled grenades and recoilless rifle rounds, Staff Sgt. Romesha identified the point of attack and directed air support to destroy over 30 enemy fighters. After receiving reports that seriously injured soldiers were at a distant battle position, Staff Sgt. Romesha and his team provided covering fire to allow the injured soldiers to safely reach the aid station.
“Upon receipt of orders to proceed to the next objective, his team pushed forward 100 meters under overwhelming enemy fire to recover and prevent the enemy fighters from taking the bodies of the fallen comrades.
“Staff Sgt. Romesha’s heroic actions throughout the day-long battle were critical in suppressing an enemy that had far greater numbers. His extraordinary efforts gave Bravo Troop the opportunity to regroup, reorganize and prepare for the counterattack that allowed the Troop to account for its personnel and secure Combat Post Keating. Staff Sergeant Romesha’s discipline and extraordinary heroism above and beyond the call of duty reflect great credit upon himself, Bravo Troop, 3d Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, and the United States Army.”
In his memoir Red Platoon: A True Story of American Valor, Romesha said of the citation, “… official accounts tend to possess a cleanness, a sense of order, that could not be more at odds with the reality of what unfolds during combat.
“In the end, only one set of numbers means anything to me: the lives that were lost and that might have been saved if we — if I — had acted differently. It’s true that I did the best I could. What’s also true is that I could have done more. In the space between those two facts reside eight graves, the memories of the men whose names are etched on the stones that mark those graves, and my own deeply mixed feelings about receiving the highest medal this country can bestow. …
“Like it or not, there are eight other guys with whom I served to whom that medal rightly belongs, because heroes — true heroes, the men whose spirit the medal embodies — don’t ever come home. By that definition, I’m not a true hero. Instead, I’m a custodian and a caretaker. I hold the medal, and everything it represents, on behalf of those who are its rightful owners.
“That, more than anything, is the truth that now sustains me — along with one other thing too, which is a belief I hold in my heart.
“I know, without a shred of doubt, that I would instantly trade that medal and everything attached to it if it would bring back even one of my missing comrades in arms.”
An In Memoriam page in the book is dedicated to those eight comrades:
Sgt. Justin Gallegos, Team Leader
Specialist Chris Griffin, Scout
Sgt. Josh Hardt, Team Leader
Sgt. Josh Kirk, Team Leader
Specialist Stephan Mace, Scout
Sgt. Vernon Martin, Chief Mechanic
Specialist Michael Scusa, Scout
Private First Class Kevin Thomson, Mortarman
Read about Ty Carter, who received a Medal of Honor for the same battle, here.
Keep up with Freedoms Foundation news and events here.