Navy Cross recipient Staff Sgt. Cliff Wooldridge, who killed a Taliban fighter in hand-to-hand combat, has left the Marine Corps after spending nine years in the service.

"I enjoyed my time in the Marine Corps," Wooldridge told Marine Corps Times. "It's had a huge impact on my life. I'm going to miss the men I've served with and miss being in the fight with them."

Wooldridge, 28, said his last day in the Marines was Tuesday. He said his time in the Corps made him appreciate life and not take it for granted.

"It made me a man and I am forever grateful for the men who mentored me and led by example," he said.

Sgt. Clifford Wooldridge, receives the Navy Cross on May 18, 2012 for combat actions in Helmand province, Afghanistan, while attached to 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, in 2010.

Photo Credit: Photo by Cpl. Sarah Anderson.

Wooldridge's tale of bravery in Afghanistan is legendary. In 2010 he was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines, when his company ran into "a hornet's nest" of insurgents, his company commander Maj. Carin Calvin later recounted.

After shooting four enemy fighters, then-Cpl. Wooldridge ran out of ammunition and ended up in a life-and-death struggle with a man who tried to pull the pin on a grenade attached to Wooldridge's vest. 

Wooldridge took the man's machine gun away from him and beat the man to death with it. He later told his platoon commander, "I think I just killed a guy with my hands."

In 2012, Wooldridge received the Navy Cross for his actions in Afghanistan, an award second only to the Medal of Honor.

After his Afghanistan deployment, Wooldridge served as an instructor with the Marine Corps Security Force Training Company's Close Quarter Battle School.

"We had a rough deployment, but it's war," he told Marine Corps Times in July 2013. "I think about that stuff all the time, but it helped mold me into the Marine I am now. The mistakes we made out there, I'm going to make damn sure those mistakes are never made again by the guys I train."

Wooldridge received another accolade when he was selected as the 2013 Marine Corps Times Marine of the Year.

"There are definitely a lot of people who deserve this award over me, but the mere fact that I was even put up for this was incredible," Wooldridge told Marine Corps at the time. "I'm very humbled."

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