On July 21, Staff Sgt. Ryan Pitts will be honored with the Medal of Honor for his actions in Afghanistan.
He is only the ninth living solider to receive this highest award for valor for his/her actions in Afghanistan or Iraq; seven others have been awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously for their actions in these wars.
The 28-year-old is being honored for his actions in the Battle of Wanat on July 13, 2008, which was one of the bloodiest battles in the Afghan war.
At around 4:20 a.m., approximately 200 Taliban fighters attacked the U.S. force stationed at the outpost near Wanat village in northeastern Afghanistan. The U.S. force was comprised mostly of Afghan troops and paratroopers from the Army’s 173rd Airborne Brigade
Out of a force of 50 American soldiers, nine died and 27 were wounded. Pitts was one of the injured: he suffered shrapnel injuries to his chest, legs and one of his arms.
Pitts and eight other paratroopers had been manning an observation post when he suddenly found himself alone and bleeding heavily from injuries.
He radioed in for help, only to be told that reinforcements were not available.
The New Hampshire native then began firing a grenade launcher at insurgents located almost directly overhead. He even resorted to the dangerous technique of activating grenades but waiting until the last possible second to throw them, to ensure that the enemy could not throw the grenade back at him.
By the time four soldiers made their way to Pitts, he was barely conscious and still fighting for his life. The soldiers were followed by attack helicopters providing air support, which were guided in part by Pitts, who had stayed in touch with headquarters and provided guidance.
At 6:15 a.m., Pitts and three of the soldiers who had come in to rescue him were medically evacuated. The fourth soldier was fatally wounded.
The military noted that “Pitts’ incredible toughness, determination, and ability to communicate with leadership while under fire allowed U.S. forces to hold the [observation post] and turn the tide of the battle.”
The military narrative added that without Pitts’ ability to “fight while critically wounded,” the enemy would have been able to inflict “significantly greater casualties onto the vehicle patrol base, and the enemy could have been in possession of seven fallen Americans.”
Pitts had joined the army in 2003, when he was 17 years old. He left in October 2009 and now works in the computer software industry.
“No one man carried the day,” Pitts said of the day for which he is soon to be honored. “We did it as a team. I remember looking around seeing other guys fighting so hard that I had to do my part, too.”
“Everybody risked their lives for each other and some of them paid for it with their lives,” Pitts added. “But they saved other people.”
Photo Source: WMUR