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 Sgt. Ryan M. Pitts, whose small Army patrol base was attacked by Taliban fighters on July 13, 2008, in Kunar province, Afghanistan. Nine American soldiers were killed in the battle, and 27 wounded, including Pitts.
Ryan M. Pitts’ Medal of Honor citation reads:
“Sergeant Ryan M. Pitts distinguished himself by extraordinary acts of heroism at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a Forward Observer in 2d Platoon, Chosen Company, 2d Battalion (Airborne), 503d Infantry Regiment, 173d Airborne Brigade during combat operations against an armed enemy at Vehicle Patrol Base Kahler in the vicinity of Wanat Village, Kunar Province, Afghanistan on July 13, 2008.
“Early that morning, while Sergeant Pitts was providing perimeter security at Observation Post Topside, a well-organized Anti-Afghan Force consisting of over 200 members initiated a close proximity sustained and complex assault using accurate and intense rocket-propelled grenade, machine gun and small-arms fire on Wanat Vehicle Patrol Base. An immediate wave of rocket-propelled grenade rounds engulfed the Observation Post, wounding Sergeant Pitts and inflicting heavy casualties.
“Sergeant Pitts had been knocked to the ground and was bleeding heavily from shrapnel wounds to his arm and legs, but with incredible toughness and resolve, he subsequently took control of the Observation Post and returned fire on the enemy. As the enemy drew nearer, Sergeant Pitts threw grenades, holding them after the pin was pulled and the safety lever was released to allow a nearly immediate detonation on the hostile forces.
“Unable to stand on his own and near death because of the severity of his wounds and blood loss, Sergeant Pitts continued to lay suppressive fire until a two-man reinforcement team arrived. Sergeant Pitts quickly assisted them by giving up his main weapon and gathering ammunition all while continually lobbing fragmentary grenades until these were expended.
“At this point, Sergeant Pitts crawled to the northern position radio and described the situation to the Command Post as the enemy continued to try and isolate the Observation Post from the main Patrol Base. With the enemy close enough for him to hear their voices and with total disregard for his own life, Sergeant Pitts whispered in the radio situation reports and conveyed information that the Command Post used to provide indirect fire support.
“Sergeant Pitts’ courage, steadfast commitment to the defense of his unit, and ability to fight while seriously wounded prevented the enemy from overrunning the Observation Post and capturing fallen American soldiers, and ultimately prevented the enemy from gaining fortified positions on higher ground from which to attack Wanat Vehicle Patrol Base. Sergeant Ryan M. Pitts’ extraordinary heroism and selflessness above and beyond the call of duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, Company C, 2d Battalion (Airborne), 503d Infantry Regiment, 173d Airborne Brigade and the United States Army.”
Pitts was awarded the Medal of Honor from President Barack Obama on July 21, 2014. He was interviewed soon after by David Vergun of the Army News Service. In the story “Bonds will never be broke,” Vergun writes:
Pitts said he never wanted any of the awards he wears on his chest, including the Medal of Honor.
“The awards are just metal and cloth. I know what we did that day.” He added that he accepted the award on behalf of all his fellow Soldiers, including nine who had fallen. “It’s our medal, not mine.
“We all answered the call and Chosen Company became our family,” he continued. “We were dedicated to each other. The life of the man next to you was more important than your own, which was most greatly exemplified by the fallen.”
About the battle on July 13, 2008, “I still think about it every day,” Pitts said. “But most of the time, I think about what we did when we were together. I’m still awestruck. I saw what fellow Soldiers did. It was unbelievable.” …
Pitts later left the Army and went to work as a software business developer for Oracle in Nashua, New Hampshire.
Upon leaving the service “you feel your family has been disbanded,” he said, regarding the transition to civilian life. “That’s tough. But you’ve got to realize we’re still all here. You can lean on these guys. I still pick up the phone. We stay in touch, even though we’re not in close physical proximity.
“I love the military,” he continued. “I don’t think I’ll ever be completely transitioned. It’s been the benchmark which I measure all other experiences that I have.”
In his talks, Pitts tries to raise awareness about the resources available to veterans who need help with post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries.
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