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Four Marines, one sailor to receive upgraded combat valor awards

January 11, 2017 (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.)
Navy Secretary Ray Mabus will upgrade the combat medals of four Marines and one sailor on Friday as part of a Defense Department review of nearly 1,400 combat valor awards issued since 2001.

Mabus will upgrade one Marine’s Silver Star to the Navy Cross. Three other Marines and a sailor will be presented with the Silver Star, raised from Bronze Stars with combat “V” devices, for acts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The ceremony will be held Friday morning at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in North Carolina.

“It is appropriate that today we recognize these individuals for their outstanding actions in the face of incredible danger,” said Wednesday in a statement. “It is also appropriate, that by honoring these five men, we honor the rest of you who fought beside them, and those who are still in the fight. This generation of Marines and sailors, like the generations who have come before them, are an extraordinary group of men and women who have given so much to our country, so much to all of us. You are the lifeblood, the legacy, and the history that is the United States Marine Corps.”

In January 2016, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter ordered a review of combat valor awards issued since Sept. 11, 2001, expressing concern that troops may not have been appropriately recognized for their heroism in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

On Nov. 15, 2016, the Navy completed its review of more than 300 valor awards, a Navy official said. More upgraded awards for Navy personnel are expected to be presented in the next few weeks, the official said.

As part of the review, Mabus has recommended that two other Navy Cross recipients be considered for the Medal of Honor, said Mabus' spokesman Navy Capt. Patrick McNally, who declined to identify the two recipients.

Sgt. Michael Mendoza will receive the Navy Cross on Friday after initially being awarded the Silver Star for his heroism in Iraq, his award citation reads. On April 7, 2004, Mendoza led five Marines in a charge across an open field and up a 10-foot berm, killing 10 insurgents. He continued the assault to protect wounded Marines, killing an insurgent who wounded his commander, and then pulled the commander to safety.

Navy Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Michael Atkinson will receive the Silver Star for his actions on April 4, 2003 in Iraq, when he braved enemy fire on four separate occasions to treat severely wounded Marines and carry them to safety, according to his citation.

Lance Cpl. Edward Huth will receive the Silver Star for helping to save two other Marines on July 27, 2010 in Marjah, Afghanistan, his citation says. Despite being shot in the arm, Huth continued to fire his machine gun at the enemy. 

Huth broke away from treatment for his arm when he saw another Marine get wounded, and moved the other Marine to safety, the citation says. As Huth and another Marine were loading the wounded Marine onto an aircraft, the second Marine was shot. Huth got both Marines onto the aircraft himself.

Marine Corps Squad Helmand
Marines from 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment run to security positions after getting off a helicopter during a mission to disrupt Taliban forces in Afghanistan's Helmand province on May 2, 2014.
Photo Credit: Cpl. Joseph Scanlan/U.S. Marine Corps

Sgt. Nicholas Brandau will receive the Silver Star for leading his squad through 23 intense direct-fire engagements from June 22 to June 27, 2012 in Afghanistan, his award citation says. When his squad landed in an enemy stronghold, Brandau provided fire that allowed his Marines to get to cover. Later, he climbed on the roof of compound on the patrol base to throw grenades at the enemy. And when a Marine was wounded outside the base, Brandau and a litter team sprinted 200 meters through enemy fire to retrieve him.

Staff Sgt. Steven Davis will receive the Silver Star for helping to save a wounded Marine in Fallujah on Nov. 9, 2004, according to his award citation. Davis’ platoon was escorting ambulances carrying casualties from the heart of Fallujah when the lead vehicles came under fire. One Marine got out of his vehicle and was shot.

Davis ran 40 meters through a “hail of enemy fire” to help move the Marine to safety, the citation says. When the other Marine was shot in the leg and collapsed, Davis dragged him to a small rock pile. Then Davis was hit. Unable to move any further, Davis used his body to shield the Marine from the intense enemy fire.

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