USA — 7th Special Forces Group Soldiers receive Silver Stars for battlefield valor in Afghanistan

FORT BRAGG, N.C. (USASOC News Ser­vice, Aug. 17, 2010) — Thun­der­ous applause filled the John F. Kennedy Audi­to­ri­um here as sev­en Sol­diers, dec­o­rat­ed with the nation’s third high­est hon­or, took the stage at the con­clu­sion of a 7th Spe­cial Forces Group (Air­borne) val­or award cer­e­mo­ny Aug. 16.

7th Special Forces Group (Airborne), Silver Star
Sev­en Sol­diers from the 7th Spe­cial Forces Group (Air­borne) were award­ed the Sil­ver Star dur­ing a cer­e­mo­ny at the JFK Audi­to­ri­um, Aug. 16, for their val­or­ous actions while deployed to Afghanistan between 2007 and 2008. From right to left the recip­i­ents are:
Sgt. 1st Class Mario Pinil­la,
Staff Sgt. Daniel Gould,
Sgt. 1st Class Jonathan Clouse,
Mas­ter Sgt. Julio Bocane­gra,
Sgt. 1st Class Anto­nio Gon­za­lez,
Chief War­rant Offi­cer Mark Roland,
and Spc. Rene Nunez,
a mem­ber of the 82nd Air­borne Divi­sion who accept­ed the posthu­mous award for his broth­er Sgt. 1st Class David Nunez.
Pho­to cred­it Trisha Har­ris, USASOC Pub­lic Affairs Office
Click to enlarge

The Sol­diers were each award­ed the Sil­ver Star for hero­ic acts of val­or dis­played dur­ing the group’s deploy­ment to Afghanistan from 2007–2008. One of the medals was posthu­mous­ly award­ed to Sgt. 1st Class David Nunez, which was pre­sent­ed to his broth­er, Spc. Rene Nunez of the 82nd Air­borne Divi­sion.

“[These men] laid it all on the line and risked absolute­ly every­thing they care about in life for the sake of the mis­sion at hand, and their part­ner and Afghan forces team­mates on their left and right,” said Col. James Kraft, 7th SFG (A) com­man­der. “Ladies and gen­tle­men, that’s true hon­or.”

Lt. Gen. John F. Mul­hol­land, com­mand­ing gen­er­al of the U.S. Army Spe­cial Oper­a­tions Com­mand, was the host of the cer­e­mo­ny. He spoke of the pride and hon­or he felt in lead­ing the men and women of Army Spe­cial Oper­a­tions.

“Every day in Iraq, Afghanistan and in oth­er coun­tries around the world, Amer­i­can Spe­cial Oper­a­tions Sol­diers rou­tine­ly and con­sis­tent­ly exhib­it enor­mous­ly pow­er­ful acts of val­or and courage on the field of bat­tle,” Mul­hol­land said.

As each of the sev­en Sol­diers took the stage to be pre­sent­ed with a medal, vignettes were read about the aston­ish­ing actions they took to stop the ene­my and pro­tect their com­rades.

“When con­front­ed with dan­ger in the fog and fric­tion of close com­bat, with­out hes­i­ta­tion you went to the sound of the guns,” Kraft said. “You took care of busi­ness first rather than tak­ing care of your­self. Each of these Sol­diers has a sto­ry to tell, but quite frankly, they’re too mod­est to tell it.”

Kraft spoke of the uncom­mon val­or the men exhib­it­ed in the heat of bat­tle, though he said words alone could not do them jus­tice.

“Though, mere words can­not ade­quate­ly express and describe one’s will­ing­ness, one’s deci­sion to charge a numer­i­cal­ly supe­ri­or ene­my force,” he said, “or to maneu­ver into the jaws of a sophis­ti­cat­ed ene­my ambush to recov­er his Afghan broth­ers. To con­tin­ue for­ward at all cost when hit by ene­my fire, or to con­tin­ue to engage the ene­my and pro­tect the lives of his team­mates, even when engulfed in flames.”

How­ev­er, if you were to ask one of these Sol­diers if they had done any­thing spe­cial, the typ­i­cal response would be, “I was just doing my job.”

“I did­n’t real­ly think about doing it, I just did it,” said Staff Sgt. Mario A. Pinil­la, a Spe­cial Forces com­mu­ni­ca­tion sergeant with 1st Bat­tal­ion, 7th SFG (A), refer­ring to his actions on Aug. 20, 2008. “If I had to do it again, I def­i­nite­ly would.”

While con­duct­ing a com­bat recon­nais­sance patrol in the Khaz Oruz­gan dis­trict of Afghanistan, his team, ODA 7134, was ambushed by anti-Afghan forces. Dur­ing the ensu­ing fire­fight, Pinil­la sprint­ed 75 meters across open ter­rain into incom­ing ene­my fire to an wound­ed team­mate, Staff Sgt. Daniel Gould, a SF engi­neer sergeant, who was pinned down. When Pinil­la reached his team­mate, he dove in front of him, pro­vid­ing his own body as cov­er for his wound­ed com­rade as he pro­ceed­ed to sup­press the ene­my ambush line.

After 10 min­utes of return­ing fire, Pinil­la suf­fered two gun­shot wounds and was crit­i­cal­ly wound­ed. His team­mates fought to return him to safe­ty, all the while Pinil­la con­tin­ued to return fire with his 9‑mm Beretta hand­gun. Due to the sever­i­ty of his wounds, he was evac­u­at­ed from the bat­tle­field and even­tu­al­ly to Wal­ter Reed Army Med­ical Cen­ter where he began a slow recov­ery process.

“It’s about trust­ing the man to your left and right, and know­ing that he will do the right thing and watch your back,” he said. “That’s what I was doing for him [Gould] and he did the same for me. I would­n’t be here today if not for him.”

Gould said it was the close­ness his team shared that enabled them to risk their lives for each oth­er.

“When you have the cama­raderie that we have, the actions become instan­ta­neous,” Gould said. “The cohe­sion that is built with­in the team is key.”

It is that cama­raderie and famil­iar­i­ty with­in the team that allows its mem­bers to per­form such acts of hero­ism. Whether it was Sgt. 1st Class Jonathan Clouse run­ning into the kill zone of an ambush, while he him­self was wound­ed, to pro­vide med­ical aid to a wound­ed team­mate; or Sgt. 1st Class David Nunez remain­ing in a vehi­cle engulfed in flames in order to dis­card explo­sives and ammu­ni­tion, to pre­vent sec­ondary explo­sions and ensure oth­ers were not hurt or killed.

“Where on earth do we get men like these?” Kraft said. “They’re here among us today. How for­tu­nate, proud and hum­bled we are to be in the true com­pa­ny of heroes. We know full well the tremen­dous cost that comes with that kind of devo­tion, and we will nev­er for­get the sac­ri­fice.”

Unit­ed States Army News Ser­vice

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