Camp Lejeune, N.C. -- Servicemembers shuffled through the doors and filled rows of seats at the Goettge Memorial Field House April 30, to honor a man who risked his life to save his fellow Marines in Afghanistan in 2011.
The Silver Star Medal, the third highest military decoration for valor, has only been awarded to 40 Marines for actions in Afghanistan. Staff Sgt. Daniel W. Ridgeway, an explosive ordnance disposal team leader with 2nd Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company, 8th Engineer Support Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, was the 41st to receive the medal for his actions in combat during Operation Enduring Freedom. His award citation reads that Ridgeway cleared a 40-meter path on his hands and knees to a fellow Marine after the team member was struck by an explosive device. Upon reaching the victim, he treated the Marine’s wounds and turned him over to a corpsman for continued care. Ridgeway then began clearing a 100-meter by 100-meter landing zone so his team member could be evacuated. Once his team member was evacuated, Ridgeway’s unit came under fire. He continued to clear more paths for his team and disarmed five more improvised explosive devices. “What he did for the Marine Corps and his fellow Marine was absolutely selfless,” said Maj. Gen. Michael G. Dana, the assistant deputy commandant for logistics at Headquarters Marine Corps. “His actions reflect the best that EOD brings to the fight.” Dana was the commanding general of 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward) during Ridgeway’s deployment.
Ridgeway said he was originally hoping for a low-key ceremony, but that after seeing the “snap and pop” displayed by the Marines in the ceremony, his excitement started to build. “They showed me that this was a formation they didn’t mind showing up for,” said Ridgeway. “I can’t put into words how much this ceremony means to me, as well as my family.” Ridgeway fought back tears as he gave thanks to his mentor, Gunnery Sgt. Ralph “E.J.” Pate, an explosive ordnance disposal technician who was killed in action in 2011. “ … He gave me the training and tools I needed to disarm IEDs as if it were easy.” Ridgeway is currently assigned to Wounded Warrior Battalion-East and says he will continue to wear the uniform that he is so proud of. “Life … is what you make of it, it will beat you down if you let it, but like Rocky said ‘It ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.’”