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Medal of Honor recipient: Taliban 'simply couldn't have' outpost

Staff Sgt. Clinton Romesha was awarded the Medal of Honor for preventing the Taliban from overrunning his outpost in 2009. Tuesday he was inducted into the Pentagon's Hall of Heroes.

By Anna MulrineStaff writer / February 12, 2013

President Barack Obama bestows the Medal of Honor on retired Staff Sgt. Clinton Romesha for conspicuous gallantry, Monday, in the East Room of the White House.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

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Washington

It was 6 a.m. on October 3, 2009 when Staff. Sgt. Clinton Romesha and 52 of his fellow soldiers awoke to find their small outpost not far from Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan, under attack.

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They were outnumbered – eight times over – by more than 400 heavily armed Taliban fighters who had occupied the high ground on all four sides of the small base, nestled on the floor of a tiny valley of the Hindu Kush.

“Four hundred Taliban versus 53 American soldiers. It just doesn’t seem fair – to the Taliban,” Mr. Romesha joked at a Pentagon ceremony Tuesday, before sounding a somber note. The outpost “was our home,” he said, “and they simply couldn’t have it.”

But they were going to try. The Taliban were raining down fire upon the American troops at Combat Outpost Keating, using rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), mortars, anti-aircraft machine guns, and small arms to fire into what senior military officials described as a “fish bowl.” 

It was a battle that was to last one full day – a day that ultimately became the deadliest of that year for US troops, leaving eight American soldiers dead and 80 percent of the buildings on the base destroyed.

On Monday, in a ceremony at the White House, Romesha, who was wounded in the battle, was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Obama. Mr. Obama cited the now retired staff sergeant’s “conspicuous gallantry” and adherence to the code of never leaving behind a fallen comrade as he rallied the American force and called in airstrikes to repel the Taliban attackers.

On Tuesday, it was the Pentagon’s opportunity to pay tribute to one of its own as it inducted Romesha into the Hall of Heroes, only the fourth living recipient to be awarded the military’s highest honor for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

Romesha “embodies the essence of a soldier, and represents what every man and woman who dons this uniform strives to be,” Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno, the service’s top officer, said during the ceremony.

General Odierno pointed to Romesha’s fellow soldiers from his Bravo troop of the 4th Brigade Combat Team of the 4th Infantry Division, which became one of most decorated units in US military history, earning nine Silver Stars, 18 Bronze Star medals with Valor, and 27 Purple Hearts.

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