FORT BENNING, Ga. -- Sgt. 1st Class John Melson was honored at Fort Benning Aug. 23, as he was presented the Bronze Star Medal with "V" device for valor, for his actions more than four years ago while fighting off a Taliban ambush in Gerani, Afghanistan. "I am thankful and extremely grateful for this recognition," said Melson, who is now a Ranger instructor for the Army National Guard Warrior Training Center's Ranger Training and Assessment Course. "It was the combined actions of my team that day that assisted me in my success. I am thankful that my team and I shot straighter that day." Melson was serving as a member of a 10-man team in May 2009 when he, his Soldiers and 13 Afghanistan National Police were attacked by about 250 Taliban fighters.
Melson manned a .50-caliber machine gun atop an armored Humvee, using it to destroy several enemy fighting positions while machine gun fire, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades rained down on his vehicle. As the firefight continued, the driver of Melson's Humvee lost control of the vehicle, falling off the road and into an irrigation canal, causing the vehicle to flip and take on water.
Melson leapt from the vehicle, and led efforts to get the vehicle upright, saving the driver who had been trapped within. After helping to recover the vehicle and its driver, Melson returned to the .50-caliber machine gun, providing fire that gave the team time to drive away from the ambush. During the fight, Melson and his team killed more than 50 Taliban fighters. Melson said he never stopped to consider his actions during the ambush. "From what I can remember, there really wasn't much of a thought process," he said. "It was just doing what was right, and what was right to me was to not leave anybody behind." The Bronze Star, the military's fourth-highest individual award, was Melson's fourth, with three previous medals being awarded for his actions over the course of six deployments. "My entire career up to this point has been an amazing run," he said. "I know I must have a guardian angel, or God has a plan for me that I just haven't figured out yet." Melson was presented his fourth Bronze Star by Lt. Gen. William Ingram Jr., the director of the Army National Guard. During the ceremony, Ingram said Melson's sacrifices could never be adequately rewarded. "Our nation can never fully repay you for the actions and the sacrifices you voluntarily made throughout your multiple deployments," Ingram said. "Your actions in May 2009 embody the Soldier's creed. On behalf of the nation, the United States Army and the Army National Guard, it is my honor to recognize your bravery and selfless service with the presentation of the Bronze Star with V device." Of his six deployments, Melson said the 2009 combat tour stands out to him because of his team's ability to change the attitude of the enemy. "The enemy saw us as a soft target, but during our tour there we quickly changed their opinion of us," he said. "This tour was an amazing tour, and I was lucky to be teamed up with the guys that I was." Melson served three years in the Marines, from 1989 to 1992, before leaving. After the events of 9/11, however, Melson said he felt compelled to return to military service, and did so by joining the Massachusetts Army National Guard. Since enlisting with the National Guard, Melson has completed Ranger School, and also attended Airborne and Air Assault Schools, the Military Mountaineering Course and the Combat Adviser Course.
Despite his six combat tours, Melson said he is ready to fight again if called upon. "Our country is at war, so if I have the opportunity to go back, that's what I'm trained to do -- fight the enemy," he said. "I'm probably better served by being overseas fighting the enemy than staying here stateside."