President Obama Awards the Medal of Honor

President Obama Awards the Medal of Honor


Reverend Rutherford:
Let us pray. Eternal God, from whom we
come, to whom we belong, and in whose service we
find peace, hear our prayer. Centuries ago, written to be
called in a spur to the faithful servants of truths and justice. Arm yourself, be men of
valor, be in readiness for the conflict. It is better for us
to perish in battle, look upon the outrage
of our nation. Lord God, recognize
men of valor, who in readiness
for the conflict, the battle of Kamdish
came upon them. Their sacred story is
one of life and of death. The service faithfully rendered
at the moment of truth belongs to that small band
of black knights. As a nation grateful for the
spirit of the men who follow, and the man who leads, we offer
our gratitude for the actions of those men that day, and for the
actions of, as the author wrote, an intense guy, short and wiry. Thank you, oh, God, for the
honor of claiming their story and writing it into
our nation’s history. We bestow our nation’s highest
honor on Staff Sergeant Romesha and recognize his actions
that day at COP Keating. Grant unto us your
holy presence. We pray your abiding grace
and eternal mercies upon the families and the friends who
gave the last full measure of devotion that day — Staff
Sergeant Vernon Martin, Staff Sergeant Justin Gallegos,
Staff Sergeant Joshua Hart, Sergeant Joshua Kirk,
Sergeant Michael Scuza, Sergeant Christopher Griffin,
Specialist Stephan Mace and PFC Kevin Thompson. Now we ask your blessing upon
all of our servicemen and women at home and abroad as
they support and defend our Constitution. Grant wisdom and guidance to
those who need our nation as Sergeant Romesha’s example. Guide our service and
inspire our devotion. We ask this and pray in
your holy name, Amen. The President:
Please be seated, everybody. Good afternoon. And on behalf of
Michelle and myself, welcome to the White House. Every day at the White House
we receive thousands of letters from folks all across America. And at night, upstairs in
my study, I read a few. About three years ago, I
received a letter from a mom in West Virginia. Her son, Stephan, a Specialist
in the Army, just 21 years old, had given his life
in Afghanistan. She had received the condolence
letter that I’d sent to her family, as I send to every
family of the fallen. And she wrote me back. “Mr. President,” she said,
“you wrote me a letter telling me that my son was a hero. I just wanted you to know
what kind of hero he was.” “My son was a great
soldier,” she wrote. “As far back as I can
remember, Stephan wanted to serve his country.” She spoke of how he “loved
his brothers in B Troop.” How he “would do
anything for them.” And of the brave actions that
would cost Stephan his life, she wrote, “His sacrifice
was driven by pure love.” Today, we are honored to be
joined by Stephan’s mother Vanessa and his father Larry. Please stand, Vanessa and Larry. (applause) We’re joined by the families
of the seven other patriots who also gave their lives that day. Can we please have them stand so
we can acknowledge them as well. (applause) We’re joined by members of Bravo
Troop whose courage that day was driven by pure love. And we gather to present the
Medal of Honor to one of these soldiers — Staff
Sergeant Clinton L. Romesha. Clint, this is our nation’s
highest military decoration. It reflects the gratitude
of our entire country. So we’re joined by
members of Congress; leaders from across
our Armed Forces, including Secretary of
Defense Leon Panetta, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs
of Staff Marty Dempsey, Army Secretary John McHugh,
and Army Chief of Staff General Ray Odierno. We are especially honored to be
joined by Clint’s 4th Infantry Division — “Iron
Horse” — soldiers, and members of the
Medal of Honor Society, who today welcome
you into their ranks. Now, despite all this attention,
you may already have a sense that Clint is a
pretty humble guy. We just spent some time
together in the Oval Office. He grew up in Lake City,
California — population less than a hundred. We welcome his family, including
mom and dad, Tish and Gary. Clint — I hope he doesn’t
mind if I share that Clint was actually born at home. These days, Clint works in
the oilfields of North Dakota. He is a man of faith, and after
more than a decade in uniform, he says the thing he looks
forward to the most is just being a husband and a father. In fact, this is not even the
biggest event for Clint this week, because tomorrow, he and
his wife Tammy will celebrate their 13th wedding anniversary. Clint and Tammy, this is
probably not the kind of intimate anniversary
you planned. (laughter) But we’re so glad
that you’re here, along with your three
beautiful children — Dessi, Gwen and Colin. Colin is not as shy as Clint. (laughter) He was in the Oval Office,
and he was racing around pretty good. (laughter) And sampled a number of
the apples before he found the one that was just right. (laughter) Now, to truly understand the
extraordinary actions for which Clint is being honored, you
need to understand the almost unbelievable conditions under
which he and B Troop served. This was a time, in 2009, when
many of our troops still served in small, rugged outposts, even
as our commanders were shifting their focus to larger
towns and cities. So Combat Outpost Keating was
a collection of buildings of concrete and plywood with
trenches and sandbags. Of all the outposts
in Afghanistan, Keating was among
the most remote. It sat at the bottom
of a steep valley, surrounded by mountains
— terrain that a later investigation said gave “ideal”
cover for insurgents to attack. COP Keating, the
investigation found, was “tactically indefensible.” But that’s what these
soldiers were asked to do — defend the indefensible. The attack came in the
morning, just as the sun rose. Some of our guys were standing
guard; most, like Clint, were still sleeping. The explosions shook them out of
their beds and sent them rushing for their weapons. And soon, the awful odds became
clear: These 53 Americans were surrounded by more than
300 Taliban fighters. What happened next has been
described as one of the most intense battles of the
entire war in Afghanistan. The attackers had the
advantage — the high ground, the mountains above. And they were unleashing
everything they had — rocket-propelled grenades,
heavy machine guns, mortars; snipers taking aim. To those Americans down below,
the fire was coming in from every single direction. They’d never seen
anything like it. With gunfire impacting
all around him, Clint raced to one of
the barracks and grabbed a machine gun. He took aim at one of the enemy
machine teams and took it out. A rocket-propelled
grenade exploded, sending shrapnel into his
hip, his arm, and his neck. But he kept fighting,
disregarding his own wounds, and tending to an
injured comrade instead. Then, over the radio, came words
no soldier ever wants to hear — “enemy in the wire.” The Taliban had
penetrated the camp. They were taking over buildings. The combat was close; at
times, as close as 10 feet. When Clint took aim
at three of them, they never took another step. But still, the enemy advanced. So the Americans pulled back,
to buildings that were easier to defend, to make one last stand. One of them was later compared
to the Alamo — one of them later compared it to the Alamo. Keating, it seemed, was
going to be overrun. And that’s when Clint Romesha
decided to retake that camp. Clint gathered up his guys,
and they began to fight their way back. Storming one building,
then another. Pushing the enemy back. Having to actually shoot
up — at the enemy in the mountains above. By now, most of the
camp was on fire. Amid the flames and smoke,
Clint stood in a doorway, calling in airstrikes that
shook the earth all around them. Over the radio, they heard
comrades who were pinned down in a Humvee. So Clint and his team unloaded
everything they had into the enemy positions. And with that cover, three
wounded Americans made their escape — including a
grievously injured Stephan Mace. But more Americans, their
bodies, were still out there. And Clint Romesha lives the
Soldier’s Creed — “I will never leave a fallen comrade.” So he and his team
started charging, as enemy fire poured down. And they kept charging — 50
meters; 80 meters — ultimately, a 100-meter run through
a hail of bullets. They reached their
fallen friends and they brought them home. Throughout history, the question
has often been asked, why? Why do those in uniform take
such extraordinary risks? And what compels
them to such courage? You ask Clint and any of these
soldiers who are here today, and they’ll tell you. Yes, they fight
for their country, and they fight for our freedom. Yes, they fight to come
home to their families. But most of all, they
fight for each other, to keep each other safe and
to have each other’s backs. When I called Clint to tell
him that he would receive this medal, he said he was
honored, but he also said, it wasn’t just me out
there, it was a team effort. And so today we also
honor this American team, including those who made the
ultimate sacrifice — Private First Class Kevin Thomson, who
would have turned 26 years old today; Sergeant Michael
Scusa; Sergeant Joshua Kirk; Sergeant Christopher Griffin;
Staff Sergeant Justin Gallegos; Staff Sergeant Vernon Martin;
Sergeant Joshua Hardt; and Specialist Stephan Mace. Each of these patriots
gave their lives looking out for each other. In a battle that raged all day,
that brand of selflessness was displayed again and again and
again — soldiers exposing themselves to enemy fire to
pull a comrade to safety, tending to each other’s wounds,
performing “buddy transfusions” — giving each other
their own blood. And if you seek a
measure of that day, you need to look no further
than the medals and ribbons that grace their chests —
for their sustained heroism, 37 Army Commendation Medals; for
their wounds, 27 Purple Hearts; for their valor, 18 Bronze
Stars; for their gallantry, 9 Silver Stars. These men were outnumbered,
outgunned and almost overrun. Looking back, one of them
said, “I’m surprised any of us made it out.” But they are here today. And I would ask these soldiers
— this band of brothers — to stand and accept the gratitude
of our entire nation. (applause) There were many lessons
from COP Keating. One of them is that our
troops should never, ever, be put in a position where they
have to defend the indefensible. But that’s what these soldiers
did — for each other, in sacrifice driven
by pure love. And because they did, eight
grieving families were at least able to welcome their
soldiers home one last time. And more than 40 American
soldiers are alive today to carry on, to keep alive the
memory of their fallen brothers, to help make sure that this
country that we love so much remains strong and free. What was it that turned
the tide that day? How was it that so few Americans
prevailed against so many? As we prepare for the
reading of the citation, I leave you with the
words of Clint himself, because they say something about
our Army and they say something about America; they say
something about our spirit, which will never be broken:
“We weren’t going to be beat that day,” Clint said. “You’re not going to
back down in the face of adversity like that. We were just going to
win, plain and simple.” God bless you, Clint Romesha,
and all of your team. God bless all who serve. And God bless the United
States of America. With that, I’d like the
citation to be read. Military Aide:
The President of the
United States of America, authorized by Act of
Congress, March 3rd, 1863, has awarded in the name
of Congress the Medal of Honor to Staff Sergeant Clinton L.
Romesha, United States Army, for conspicuous gallantry and
intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond
the call of duty: Staff Sergeant Clinton L.
Romesha distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and
intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the
call of duty while serving as a Section Leader with
Bravo Troop, 3rd 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 October 3rd, 2009. On that morning, Staff Sergeant
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 Sergeant 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 Sergeant 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 Sergeant 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 Sergeant 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 Sergeant 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
Sergeant 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
Sergeant 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 Sergeant 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 their fallen comrades. Staff Sergeant 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 Outpost Keating. Staff Sergeant Romesha’s
discipline and extraordinary heroism above and beyond the
call of duty reflect great credit upon himself,
Bravo Troop, 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment,
4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division and
the United States Army. (applause) Reverend Rutherford:
Today, Almighty God, we have
gathered to give recognition to spirit that made
our country great, a willingness to give totally
of ourselves, even into death. For the great blessings of
being a part of this country, for the honor and example of
Staff Sergeant Romesha brings to our lives we give you thanks. He was led to our Army
for a few short years. We were deeply blessed
by his presence. As his ancestors
inspired his service, he inspired generations to
greater service and devotion. In your strength, may
we protect others. In your providence,
may we be kept safe. May we turn our hearts towards
you each and every day. We ask this and pray in
your holy name, Amen. The President:
Well, thank you, everybody. Most of all, thank you for Clint
and the entire team for their extraordinary service and
devotion to our country. We’re going to have an
opportunity to celebrate and there’s going to be a wonderful
reception — I hear the food around here is pretty good. (laughter) I know the band is good. And Colin really
needs to get down. (laughter) So, enjoy, everybody. Give our newest recipient of
the Medal of Honor a big round of applause once again. (applause)

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