WASHINGTON (CBS/AP) – President Barack Obama bestowed the Medal of Honor on a former Army staff sergeant who fought off enemy fighters during one of the bloodiest battles of the Afghanistan war.
Ryan M. Pitts of Nashua, N.H., is the ninth living recipient of the nation’s highest decoration for battlefield valor for actions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Obama said Pitts displays “the humility and loyalty” that define America’s men and women in uniform. Obama noted that the 28-year-old Pitts has said his honor belongs to everyone who was with him during the July 13, 2008 attack in Wanat, Afghanistan.
Nine Americans died and 27 were wounded, including Pitts who was hit by grenade shrapnel in both legs and in one arm.
Despite losing blood from his wounds, Pitts continued to fire at about 200 Taliban fighters and guided air strikes that helped repel the attack.
“That little post was on the verge of falling, giving the enemy a perch to devastate the base below,” Obama said in a White House ceremony. “Against that onslaught, one American held the line.”
He called in for air support that helped repel the attack and prevented the enemy from taking his fellow soldiers who had been killed.
Nearly all of the survivors and relatives of the fallen were with Pitts Monday when he received the Medal of Honor for heroism in Afghanistan at the White House.
Obama honored each of those killed in battle with Pitts by name, and asked their families to rise and be recognized, including two of their children who have grown up without a parent. He also noted it was the second wedding anniversary for Pitts and his wife, who have a 1-year-old son.
“It’s going to be tough topping this one, as anniversaries go,” Obama joked. But he advised Pitts, “You should try. Don’t rest on your laurels after just two years.”
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