MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. — Sergeant Matthew Abbate was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross, the highest decoration that can be bestowed by the Department of the Navy and second highest decoration for valor, during an award ceremony at the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Parade Deck at Camp Pendleton California, Aug. 10.
On Oct. 14, 2010, Abbate’s Quick Reaction Force team came under fire during a dismounted patrol through Sangin, Afghanistan’s northern green zone. His patrol was ambushed in a minefield by insurgents who were in several well-prepared positions. The following events display the heroic actions of Abbate and his ultimate sacrifice to save his Marines.
After his team received fire, patrol members moved to cover after two Marines and a Corpsman struck improvised explosive devices in quick succession. With the patrol leader incapacitated and three severe casualties, Abate took charge of the situation and, with total disregard for his own life, sprinted through the unswept minefield to rally the dazed team members.
Still exposed and suppressing the enemy, he directed the remaining squad member’s fire until they effectively suppressed the enemy and could give life-saving aid to the urgent casualties. After coordinating the medical evacuation, he swept the landing zone with a mine detector for additional explosives, clearing it for the medical evacuation aircraft, before the patrol was again forced to take cover from enemy fire.
Knowing the casualties’ survival depended upon the speed of their evacuation by helicopter, he again rallied the patrol’s able men and led a counter offensive to clear enemy fighters from the landing zone allowing the critically wounded to be evacuated.
Abbate was killed in action on Dec. 2, later that year in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
“By his outstanding display of decisive leadership, unlimited courage in the face of heavy enemy fire and utmost devotion to duty, Sergeant Abbate reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service,” cited the award.
Abbate was very well known throughout his unit, Scout Sniper Platoon, Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division, and inspirational to his peers.
“Sgt. Matthew Abbate wasn’t just our section leader, he was our mentor, our friend and our brother,” said Sgt. Royce R. Hughie, scout sniper, Sniper Platoon, Company W, 3/5. “He excelled at everything he did from being a man, a father and a warrior. Matt was a man among men, he was always there in times of trouble. He would do anything in his power and usually more to provide for his friends and family. Matt brought out the best of every situation, especially in hard times. As a warrior Matt was courageous, inspiring, and dedicated.”
Major Gen. Ronald L. Bailey, commanding general, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, presented the Navy Cross to Abbate’s family after speaking of him during the ceremony.
“Today we are here to honor and recognize an American hero,” said Bailey. “The Navy Cross is given for great gallantry and valor. Sergeant Abbate’s actions were truly and extraordinarily heroic, and I’m proud that his actions are honored today.”
All those who knew Abbate didn’t fail to mention his leadership ability when they served along his side.
“He instilled a sense of confidence and safety with everyone on patrol simply because he was there,” added Hughie. “Matt led by example, always from the front, and was always the last one out. He never expected anything from someone that he wouldn’t do himself. Matt changed the lives of everyone who had the privilege of knowing him and will always be remembered.”
Abbate’s awards include the Purple Heart, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, Combat Action Ribbon, Good Conduct Medal and now the Navy Cross.
“Everyone who knew Sgt. Abbate well, myself included, will always bear a portion of grief at his loss,” said Capt. Jeffrey C. Marston, series commander, 1st Company, 1st Recruit Training Battalion, Recruit Training Regiment. “We will always ponder his memory in our own way and reflect on what his life meant to us.”