1.Marine Sgt. Dakota Meyer
Marine Sgt. Dakota Meyer was awarded the Medal of Honor for his attempts to locate and rescue missing comrades despite hostile fire in Ganjgal, Afghanistan. Rather than stay at a relatively safe distance from the intense firefight as he had been ordered, the then-21-year-old crossed battle lines and saved the lives of 36 US and Afghan troops pinned down during a Taliban ambush in September 2009.
President Obama presented Meyer with the award during a ceremony Thursday at the White House. “You did your duty, above and beyond, and you kept the faith with the highest traditions of the Marine Corps that you love,” Mr. Obama said. “Because of your courage, your fallen American heroes came home.”
Meyer is the third living recipient of the Medal of Honor for actions in the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Army Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Petry
Army Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Petry was awarded the Medal of Honor after he picked up and threw a live grenade away from his fellow soldiers in Paktia Province, Afghanistan. The incident in May 2008 cost him his right hand, which was later replaced by a gray robotic hand that helped the soldier remain active in the service and even redeploy.
On the day of the ceremony, Petry told reporters outside the White House, “To be singled out is very humbling.” He contined, “I consider every one of our men and women in uniform serving here, abroad, to be our heroes. They sacrifice every day and deserve your continued support and recognition.”
Army Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta
Army Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta was awarded the Medal of Honor for risking his life to save two members of his squad from being captured in Korengal Valley, Afghanistan. For his bravery during the incident in October 2007, Giunta was also inducted into what military officials refer to as the Pentagon’s most sacred place: its Hall of Heroes. Obama presented the Medal of Honor in November of last year at the White House.
“This was a situation we were put into. I was just one brush stroke in that picture, and everyone else was one brush stroke in that picture,” Giunta said. “And what I wasn’t was the first brush stroke of that picture, and it wasn’t the last brush stroke in that picture, and it wasn’t the best. It was just another brush stroke that helped, you know, complete this picture. In this job, I am only mediocre. I’m average. “
Giunta, who has often been lauded for his modesty in interviews, was the first living Medal of Honor recipient for service in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Army Staff Sgt. Robert James Miller
Army Staff Sgt. Robert James Miller was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for protecting his Operational Detachment Alpha teammates in the Nari District of Kunar Province, Afghanistan. He was fatally shot while diverting gunfire from Taliban forces during the action in January 2008, which allowed his fellow soldiers to escape.
Miller was the youngest member of his unit, the 3rd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group.
Obama presented the award to Miller’s family in October 2010. “When the dust settled and the smoke cleared ... five members of his patrol had been wounded, but his team had survived,” he said. “Devotion to duty. An abiding sense of honor. A profound love of country. These were the virtues that found their ultimate expression when Rob ... met his testing point.”
Army Sgt. 1st Class Jared Monti
Army Sgt. 1st Class Jared Monti was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously for trying to rescue a wounded soldier from intense small-arms and rocket-propelled-grenade fire in Gowardesh, Afghanistan. He was killed during the attack in June 2006.
Obama presented Monti’s family with the award in a ceremony at the White House in September 2009. “Jared Monti did something no amount of training can instill,” he said. “His patrol leader said he’d go, but Jared said: ‘No. He is my soldier; I am going to get him.'... Faced with overwhelming enemy fire, Jared could have stayed where he was, behind that wall. But that was not the kind of soldier Jared Monti was.”
Monti began his military career when he enlisted in the National Guard as a high school junior.
Navy Lt. Michael Murphy
Navy Lt. Michael Murphy was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously for leading a four-man SEAL reconnaissance mission in June 2005 to find a key Taliban leader near Asadabad, Afghanistan. At one point, he knowingly left his position of cover to get a clear signal in order to communicate with his headquarters. Upon exposing himself to enemy fire, he was shot but managed to crawl onto a ridgeline and radio the nearby air base for them to send reinforcements.
He then returned to his position to continue fighting until he died from his wounds.
President Bush presented Murphy’s family with the award in October 2007 at a ceremony at the White House. “In his final act of bravery, he continued to engage the enemy until he was mortally wounded, gallantly giving his life for his country and for the cause of freedom,” he said in the award citation. “By his selfless leadership, courageous actions, and extraordinary devotion to duty, Lieutenant Murphy reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the United States naval service.”
Murphy was the first to receive the award for combat in Afghanistan.
Marine Cpl. Jason Dunham
Marine Cpl. Jason Dunham was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously for engaging in hand-to-hand combat with an enemy fighter near Iraq’s Syrian border. Dunham deliberately threw himself on a hand grenade, dropped by an insurgent, and attempted to use his helmet to shield others from the explosion. He was killed during the attack in April 2004.
In Dunham’s Medal of Honor citation, Mr. Bush said, “In an ultimate and selfless act of bravery in which he was mortally wounded, he saved the lives of at least two fellow Marines. By his undaunted courage, intrepid fighting spirit, and unwavering devotion to duty, Corporal Dunham gallantly gave his life for his country.”
Bush presented the award to Dunham’s family in January 2007 in a ceremony at the White House. Dunham was the first Marine to receive the award in the Iraq war, and it was the first earned for combat action since the Vietnam War.
Army Spc. Ross McGinnis
Army Spc. Ross McGinnis was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously for saving the lives of four soldiers in Adhamiya, Iraq, when he flung himself on a hand grenade tossed into their Humvee. Instead of jumping out of the vehicle, McGinnis threw his back over the grenade, which exploded and killed him instantly. He was 19 during the attack in December 2006.
“Ross was a hero.... He was honestly the type of soldier that was trustworthy, that was reliable, that was dependable before combat. He loved doing what he was doing,” said Ian Newland, one of the soldiers McGinnis saved.
Bush presented the award to McGinnis’s parents in July 2008, during a ceremony at the White House.
Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Monsoor
Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Monsoor was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously for saving the lives of his fellow SEALs in Ramadi, Iraq, by diving on a grenade only he could have escaped. Before the attack in September 2006, an insurgent lobbed up the hand grenade, which hit Monsoor in the chest and bounced onto the rooftop of a residential building where his team of SEAL snipers was stationed.
After warning his teammates, who had no time to escape, Monsoor smothered the grenade with his body. It detonated, and Monsoor died from his wounds about 30 minutes later.
“He made an instantaneous decision to save our teammates. I immediately understood what happened, and tragically it made sense to me in keeping with the man I know, Mike Monsoor,” said Lt. Cmdr. Seth Stone, Monsoor’s platoon leader in Ramadi.
Bush presented the award to Monsoor’s family in April 2008 during a ceremony at the White House.
Army Sgt. 1st Class Paul Smith
Army Sgt. 1st Class Paul Smith was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously for holding Iraqi forces at bay during an attack near Baghdad. The incident took place during the invasion of Iraq, in April 2003.
Prior to the attack, Smith was setting up a temporary prisoner-of-war holding area during the seizure of Saddam International Airport, when an Iraqi force of about 100 opened fire. Smith shot off about 400 rounds, allowing time for three wounded soldiers to be carried out and for his soldiers to regroup and mount an attack. Eventually, the Iraqi force was defeated, but not before Smith took a deadly enemy bullet.
Before deploying to Iraq, Smith had written to his parents, “There are two ways to come home, stepping off the plane and being carried off the plane. It doesn’t matter how I come home because I am prepared to give all that I am to ensure that all my boys make it home.”
Bush presented the award to Smith’s family at a ceremony at the White House in April 2005, exactly two years after his death.