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President Obama announced Friday he will award the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest decoration for valor, to an Army staff sergeant who fought off a Taliban attempt to overrun his combat outpost in eastern Afghanistan.
Former Staff Sgt. Clinton Romesha, 31, of Minot, N.D., is scheduled to receive the medal in a ceremony on Feb. 11. Romesha will become the fourth living recipient of the MOH from the post-9/11 wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
A total of 10 Medals of Honor have been awarded for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The three other living recipients, all of whom served in Afghanistan, are Army Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta, Marine Sgt. Dakota Meyer, and Army Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Petry.
Obama announced the tribute to Romesha’s “heroic service in Afghanistan” during a White House news conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. The president stressed that Afghan troops will have to shoulder the responsibility for their own security as the U.S. winds down the war.
Romesha’s earned the Medal of Honor for his bravery after Afghan troops fled a firefight at Combat Outpost Keating in eastern Nuristan province while he was serving as a section leader with Bravo Troop, 3d Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division.
Eight U.S. troops were killed and more than 20 others wounded in the assault by the enemy with mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machineguns that breached the gates of the post.
The attack, one of the deadliest single-day engagements for U.S. forces in the Afghan war, was the focus of the recent book “The Outpost” by former ABC-TV White House correspondent Jake Tapper. Nine other troops who fought alongside Romesha had already received the Silver Star for their own heroism.
About 50 American, 20 Afghan and two Latvian soldiers, along with about 12 Afghan security guards, found themselves at COP Keating when the pre-dawn attack began. It continued for more than three hours.
Romesha “took out an enemy machine gun team and, while engaging a second, the generator he was using for cover was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade, inflicting him with shrapnel wounds,” according to the MOH citation.
Romesha kept fighting. “With complete disregard for his own safety, Romesha continually exposed himself to heavy enemy fire as he moved confidently about the battlefield, engaging and destroying multiple enemy targets, including three Taliban fighters who had breached the combat outpost’s perimeter,” the citation said.
Romesha lives in Minot with his wife and three children. He left the Army in April 2011 after serving for 12 years.