MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- Earning a Silver Star is one of the most prestigious achievements for someone in the military, and servicemembers have to distinguish themselves with gallantry in action in order to be awarded the military’s third-highest honor. Sergeant Ryan Steinkamp, an infantryman with 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, did just that. Steinkamp was awarded the Silver Star aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, Aug. 28, 2013, for his actions while deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in 2012. Steinkamp was serving as a squad leader with Company C, 1st Bn., 8th Marines, Regimental Combat Team 6, April 17, 2012 when he earned the award. “Steinkamp led his squad through 800 meters of mined terrain to clear Payawak Village of enemy forces,” the citation reads.
While clearing the village, his squad was ambushed by enemy direct and indirect fire from multiple positions. Steinkamp led his squad to safety and planned a counter-attack. He then left the safety of the compound and attacked the enemy with grenades. After successfully pushing the enemy back, he led his squad to clear more of the village. Steinkamp’s squad encountered enemy fire again, and they returned fire with small arms, grenades, and demolitions with tank and air assets. The whole operation lasted more than 12 hours. The citation continues to say Steinkamp led his squad and cleared approximately 50 compounds without any civilian casualties. “This (award) belongs to the Marines I was with that day,” Steinkamp said. “This is our award. They were the ones who executed everything. I couldn’t serve finer Marines.” Steinkamp said he’s extremely humbled to receive an award of this caliber, because a lot of people who receive the Silver Star do it posthumously. Having his Marines back with him make him appreciate what he has. “Steinkamp demonstrated all the skills of the Marine squad leader in a very long day of combat in Afghanistan,” said Brig. Gen. James Lukeman, commanding general of 2nd Marine Division. “From planning the mission, maneuvering his squad, coming into contact with the enemy, setting up supporting fire positions and engaging the enemy, down to close combat with grenades, calling in (medical evacuations), and calling in Cobra (helicopters), he showed the courage and heroism which earned him this Silver Star.” Lukeman said Steinkamp has now joined an elite group of Marines with a Silver Star, and he is an example for all Marines to look up to. Steinkamp’s family visited from Des Moines, Iowa to witness the historic event in person, and Steinkamp was thankful he was able to receive the award with them present.