GROTON, Mass. (AP) — The military is awarding its third-highest combat decoration to a U.S. Marine from Massachusetts who was killed after saving colleagues in battle in Afghanistan.

Sgt. William Woitowicz of Groton was killed on June 7 after opening fire on Taliban fighters and exposing himself to hostile gunfire to enable fellow Marines and Afghan commandos move to safety in a village controlled by insurgents. The 23-year-old was given a Purple Heart and promoted posthumously to sergeant.

Nearly 100 relatives, friends and Marines were at the National Museum of Marine Corps in Quantico, Va., to witness the Silver Star presentation to Woitowicz’ family.

Woitowicz was assigned to 2nd Marine Special Operations Battalion, Marine Special Operations Regiment, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command at Camp Lejeune, N.C.

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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