Obama awards Medal of Honor to former Army sergeant in Afghan war
Monday, July 21, 2014 - 01:45
President Barack Obama presents the Medal of Honor to former Army Staff Sergeant Ryan Pitts for gallantry during one of the bloodiest battles of the Afghan war. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
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ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION)
STORY: President Barack Obama on Monday (July 21) awarded former Army Staff Sergeant Ryan Pitts the Medal of Honor, the highest U.S. award for heroism.
The White House said Pitts was being honored for gallantry during one of the bloodiest battles of the Afghan war, which occurred on July 13, 2008, in Wanat, a village in eastern Afghanistan's Kunar province.
"As the insurgents moved in, Ryan picked up a grenade, pulled the pin and held that live grenade for a moment, then another, then another, finally hurling it so they couldn't throw it back, and he did that again and he did it again," Obama told an audience in the East Room of the White House, which included Pitts' family and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, as Pitts stood beside him.
Before placing the Medal of Honor around his neck, Obama acknowledged Pitts' family, including his wife, Amy and their one-year-old son Lucas.
The native of Nashua, New Hampshire, was serving with the 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, at Vehicle Patrol Base Kahler when the post was attacked by Taliban fighters who broke through U.S. lines, the Pentagon said.
Pitts was at an observation post that was hit with small arms fire, rocket-propelled grenades and hand grenades, officials said. Pitts and six other paratroopers were wounded in the initial enemy fire, the Pentagon said.
Although he had grenade shrapnel in both legs and his left arm, he fought for more than an hour to defend his position, officials said.
Pitts' toughness and ability to communicate with officers under fire was crucial to thwarting enemy efforts to take the outpost, the Pentagon said. Capturing the post would have given the Taliban high ground overlooking the base, it added.
Nine soldiers were killed in the fighting and 27 wounded, the U.S. military said. U.S. and Afghan forces withdrew from the base two days later, and the U.S. combat deaths were the most in a single battle since 2005.
An Army review led to recommendations to discipline three officers in the battalion and brigade. The officers were exonerated after an appeal and further review, the Army said in 2010.
Pitts left the Army in October 2009 after being treated at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, officials said. He works in business development for the computer software industry, the Defense Department said.
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