Friday, May 02, 2008

Humbled by the Distinguished Service Cross

Master Sgt. Brendan O’Connor received the Distinguished Service Cross, the Army’s second-highest valor award, for his actions during a 17-hour battle in Afghanistan.

The 47-year-old Special Forces medical sergeant spoke with humor and humility after the medal was pinned on his uniform in a ceremony at Bank Hall on Fort Bragg.

O’Connor led a quick reaction force June 24, 2006, in Kandahar province’s Panjwai District, described by Special Forces as one of the most hotly contested areas of southern Afghanistan.

He maneuvered his force through Taliban positions and crawled alone through enemy machine-gun fire to reach two wounded soldiers, the citation said. He tied a signal cloth to his back to identify himself to aircraft overhead. While under fire, he provided medical care and carried a wounded soldier more than 150 yards across open ground. He climbed over a wall three times under enemy fire to help wounded soldiers seek cover. Then he took over as the operations sergeant and rallied, motivated and led his team.

Maj. Sheffield Ford said after the ceremony that O’Connor picked up Sgt. Joseph Fuerst and carried him over his shoulder and ran while under fire.

“Knowing that bullets were coming in all around him, he didn’t hesitate,” Ford said. “He continued to get up and move because he knew he had to get Joe back if he was going to have a chance to try to save him.” Fuerst died, and Staff Sgt. Matthew Binney survived, Ford said.

During training, Special Forces medics, who have extensive training and upon whom the entire team depends, are told to wait for others to bring the wounded to them, but O’Connor realized the soldiers needed immediate help and the battle was not going to stop, Ford said.

The award came 40 years after O’Connor’s father was killed in Vietnam.

*I am humbled by this mans heroism.