Sgt. Wade D. "Willy" Wilson (via Facebook)
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OCEANSIDE, Calif. — The Marine Corps will award the Silver Star this week to a platoon sergeant who was fatally wounded as he returned fire on an insurgent attacking Marines in an ambush last year in Afghanistan.
The family of Sgt. Wade D. “Willy” Wilson will receive the posthumous award, the nation’s third-highest medal for combat valor, during a Thursday ceremony at the 5th Marines Regiment parade deck at Camp Pendleton, Calif., 1st Marine Division officials announced Monday. Maj. Gen. Ronald L. Bailey, the division commander, will present the Silver Star to his mother and family.
Wilson, a 22-year-old assigned to 3rd Platoon, Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, was pulling security for a vehicle crippled by an improvised explosive device in Musa Qala, Helmand province, on May 11, 2012.
Wilson was in his armored vehicle when “an insurgent posing as a civilian retrieved an AK-47 from a poppy field 20 meters away and opened fire on four Marines in the downed vehicle, critically wounding the Marine in the rear of the vehicle,” states the citation accompanying the Silver Star Medal.
Wilson “immediately withdrew his M9 pistol and, leaving the safety of his armored vehicle, fearlessly closed with the insurgent, placing himself between the critically wounded Marine and the insurgent’s barrage of fire,” the citation states. “Sustaining multiple gunshot wounds, he continued moving against the enemy until falling mortally wounded.”
“His selfless dedication to place himself directly in the line of fire demonstrated tremendous courage and protected his fellow Marines from further harm,” it states.
A thousand people attended Wilson’s funeral in Texas, his home state. His death also captured the attention of country singer Taylor Swift — Wilson was a huge fan, friends said — after a close friend reached out to her with a YouTube “shout out” asking her to “think about” his loss.
“Please remember the ones who have fallen,” former Cpl. Josh Marreel said in the 57-second video, which as of Monday had more than 44,000 views.
Swift reportedly contacted Wilson’s family and sent flowers.
“My prayers go out to him and his family during this hard time,” the pop star posted on her website last May.