Before sunrise, July 13th, 2008, Northern Afghanistan: A small number of US Army paratroopers take their positions around their Vehicle Patrol Base —VPB Kahler—near the Afghan village of Wanat. These men of Chosen Company were less than two weeks from the end of their 14-month deployment. On a ridge near the main base was a small observation post, dubbed OP TOPSIDE, manned by nine paratroopers. As the early light began to peek over the mountains, the men at Khaler noticed suspicious activity in the high ground just west of the village. Before the soldiers at TOPSIDE could complete a request for warning fire to scare off the likely insurgents, a machine gun burst rang out from a building to the north. [MACHINE GUN FIRE] At that, the entire valley erupted in fire from multiple directions. It was 4:20 a.m. The paratroopers immediately realized they were under a full-scale assault from more than 200 insurgents, who were now raining fire on 48 Americans. The massive first volley had devastated TOPSIDE, killing two and wounding the remainder. The bloodied survivors needed to rally fast—or be overrun. Among the survivors at TOPSIDE was a 22-year-old sergeant: Ryan Pitts. His legs had been peppered by grenade shrapnel, and his left arm wounded. Bleeding heavily, he only survived thanks to the quick action of his brother-in-arms: Corporal Jason Bogar, who applied a tourniquet to his leg. Motivated by the spirit of his fellow paratroopers, Sergeant Pitts crawled to the north end of TOPSIDE, and began tossing grenades at the enemy. His tactic of “cooking off” the grenades —letting the fuse burn for several seconds before throwing them— put himself at great danger, but prevented the insurgents from throwing the grenades back at the wounded soldiers before they detonated. The paratroopers at TOPSIDE returned fire, and slowed the enemy’s assault, which allowed Pitts to call in a situational report to his company commander. In an effort to conserve grenades—though unable to stand— he forced himself to his knees, and manned TOPSIDE’s machine gun, firing directly into the enemy’s position. Minutes later, Lieutenant John Brostrom and Corporal Jason Hovater braved direct fire to race from the main base to TOPSIDE, to reinforce its desperate defense. They relieved the badly-wounded Sergeant Pitts, who then continued to man the radio and call in fire support. Suddenly, all outgoing fire from within TOPSIDE went silent, and the enemy’s guns and shouts were the only sounds Pitts could hear. The reinforcing soldiers had all been killed. The survivors, in need of ammunition and medical aid, and believing everyone at TOPSIDE was dead, retreated back to the main patrol base. Alone, and weakened from the blood loss, Sergeant Pitts radioed his commander, only to learn no reinforcements could be spared. The insurgent attackers were now so close to Pitts, that he resigned himself to the fact that he would not make it out alive. Determined to go down fighting, Sergeant Pitts grabbed a nearby grenade launcher, and called on the radio for any soldier with a view of TOPSIDE to begin firing over the sandbag wall that separated him from the enemy. Fellow paratrooper Brian Hissong heard the call and provided the suppressing fire. In the midst of the fighting, Sean Samaroo, Israel Garcia, Mike Denton, and Jacob Sones braved the fire to make their way to TOPSIDE, finding the badly wounded Pitts fighting for his life. Just as they began to treat Pitts and take defensive positions, another blast rocked TOPSIDE, mortally wounding 24-year-old Sergeant Israel Garcia, who gave his life to save Pitts. Also killed in the battle was 25-year-old Corporal Jason Bogar, whose quick actions at the outset had saved Pitts and allowed him to fight on. Minutes later, attack helicopters arrived to provide close air support, and at 6:15 a.m.—after fighting for well over an hour while badly wounded— Sergeant Pitts was medically evacuated from the battlefield. His solitary stand bought US forces precious time in reinforcing the post and calling in air support— actions that directly helped turn the tide of the battle. The actions of Ryan Pitts were just one of many examples of American valor that day. The Army’s report on the battle concluded that “the individual exploits of bravery are too numerous to document.” Yet on July 21st, 2014, he became only the 12th recipient of the Medal of Honor for valor in Afghanistan. “Valor was everywhere that day,” Ryan Pitts said upon receiving the Medal. Indeed it was. Among the 48 soldiers who stood against overwhelming odds, and the nine young Americans who lost their lives in the battle, he accepted the Medal of Honor for them, vowing to live a life worthy of their sacrifice. In honor of the sacrifice of the fallen heroes at the Battle of Wanat, may we all strive to live such a life.