SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Nation/World

June 27, 2014

Medal of Honor recipient: This belongs to comrades

CONCORD, N.H. — Ryan Pitts will wear the nation’s highest award for combat valor, but the humble and soft-spoken Medal of Honor recipient who continued to fight after being wounded in one of Afghanistan’s bloodiest battles insisted yesterday that the medal belongs to all of his comrades who fought and died that day.

Pitts, now a 28-year-old married father of one, will receive the medal next month at the White House.

The citation says Pitts fought off enemy fighters on July 13, 2008, in Wanat, Afghanistan. Despite losing blood from wounds in both legs and an arm, he continued to fire about 200 Taliban fighters and guided air strikes that helped repel the attack. He also used a tactic known as “cooking off” grenades, pulling the pin and holding it longer than usual so the enemy couldn’t throw it back.

Pitts, who was raised in Mont Vernon and now lives in Nashua, started Thursday’s remarks at the National Guard Headquarters in Concord by reading the names of the nine members of his platoon, who died in the attack.

“While it is an honor to have been nominated for the award, it is not mine alone,” he said. “The honor belongs to every man who fought at Vehicle Patrol Base Kahler, especially to those who made the ultimate sacrifice that allowed the rest of us to return home. I have an absolute responsibility to tell our story, because there are nine men who cannot, and it is their names you should know.”

They are: Sergio Abad, Jonathan Ayers, Jason Bogar, Jonathan Brostrom, Israel Garcia, Jason Hovater, Matthew Phillips, Pruitt Rainey and Gunnar Zwilling.

“I take comfort somehow in the pain of that loss, because it reminds me that they meant something to me, and I never want to forget that, and I appreciate the sacrifice they made for us,” he said.

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