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Marine receiving Navy Cross recounts harrowing grenade fight

Oct. 31, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
Sgt. Joshua Moore, whown training in California in March, will receive the Navy Cross during a Nov. 1 ceremony at Camp Lejeune, N.C.
Sgt. Joshua Moore, whown training in California in March, will receive the Navy Cross during a Nov. 1 ceremony at Camp Lejeune, N.C. (Marine Corps)
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U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Walter L. Miller Jr., left, commanding general of Regional Command (Southwest) shakes hands with Sgt. Joshua Moore, a scout sniper team leader with 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, Sept. 13 at Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan. Moore was notified that he was approved to be awarded the Navy Cross for his actions supporting Operation Enduring Freedom in 2011. (Sgt. Tammy K. Hineline / Marine Corps)


Sgt. Joshua Moore was a lance corporal in 2011 when he and his scout sniper team found themselves trapped inside a building that had come under heavy enemy fire. Up to that point, Moore had left the wire only a few times. Yet on Friday, he’ll receive the nation’s second-highest combat valor award for his actions that day.

Moore’s command will present him with the Navy Cross during a ceremony aboard Camp Lejeune, N.C. Among his acts of heroism, he is credited with saving the lives of his fellow Marines by grabbing a live enemy grenade and throwing it away from them before it could explode.

“It’s great to be recognized as an individual,” Moore told Marine Corps Times, “but the fact of it is, had any one person not done things exactly the way they did, if one person hadn’t been willing to accept the risk they did that day, all of us wouldn't have made it home — maybe none of us would've made it home.”

A scout sniper with 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines, Moore hadn’t yet finished scout sniper school when he left on that deployment. The unit was sent to Marjah, which at the time was still a hive of Taliban activity.

That day, March 14, 2011, Moore and his team left the wire to provide overwatch for members of 2/8’s Fox Company. The Marines had encountered small-arms fire in the area, he said, and it was one of his first times operating outside the base.

“I was just really trying to make sure that all of my friends made it home,” Moore said. “For people to look at that and say ‘Your actions were of this caliber,’ it’s just kind of an unreal moment. Especially considering it was my first deployment and one of my first few times outside of the wire.”

Moore and his team set out on patrol around 3:30 a.m. By midday, all eight Marines on the team had taken cover inside a building. That’s when two grenades were thrown at them.

“I knew if we didn’t get those grenades out of there, four of us were going to die,” Moore said. “That would leave the team in a bad situation and probably none of us would’ve made it out alive. I knew I had to try something.”

As the grenades came in, one hit Moore on the back, he said, and the second rolled over near his buddy. Moore picked one up of the grenades and threw it outside, he said. He recognized that the second grenade didn’t look right and wouldn’t explode, so he dropped it right there as the team took cover.

After the initial grenade blast, Sgt. Justin Tygart was shot, Moore said, and two Marines were hit with fragments, including Cpl. Ritchie Elias, whose ankle was broken by the force. Trapped, with three hurt Marines, they began throwing their own grenades, he said.

“I crawled out of that building while we were still taking fire and set up in a position where I could see the compound ... to give those guys enough time to treat our wounded and set up more robust security,” Moore said.

Once Moore crawled outside, he fired at a couple of the insurgents. There were only about three more incoming shots until they began to retreat, he said. Soon after, a second sniper team arrived to help. Moore then assisted in scouting and securing a landing zone for a medical evacuation.

When Moore received his Navy Cross, Tygart will receive the Bronze Star with “V” device while Elias, Sgt. Matthew Adams and Cpl. Gavin Eier will receive Navy Commendation medals with “V” device.

Moore said he is thankful that other members of his team will also be recognized. He did what he did that day because of his respect for them, he said.

Moore, who recently returned from a second deployment to Helmand province, will be joined by his wife, parents, sister and father-in-law during Friday’s ceremony.

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