FORT BENNING, Ga. -- Sgt. 1st Class Anthony Fuentes was presented the Silver Star Medal March 4 at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., for his actions in 2011 during an insurgent attack in Kunar Province, Afghanistan.
Fuentes, who is now with the 6th Ranger Training Battalion, was presented the Silver Star by Maj. Gen. H. R. McMaster, Fort Benning's commanding general.
While serving as a platoon sergeant for B Company, 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, in October 2011, Fuentes led the defense of Shal Mountain during Operation Rugged Sarak. For more than a week, the company was in near-continuous enemy contact as insurgents sought to defeat coalition efforts to build a permanent Afghan base.
Fuentes, under heavy recoilless, rocket-propelled grenade and small arms fire, led the defense of his lightly armed and undermanned section and repelled a nighttime enemy attack intent on overrunning his patrol base. He supervised the casualty collection point and enabled the successful evacuation of nine casualties.
Fuentes said he could only think of the men who fought beside him as he received the medal.
"My Family was extended and full of life, new brothers who lived on to support one another but on this day in October my family was reduced but not forgotten," he said. "You, my brothers, I say thank you, you are why I'm here, you are my continued motivation, my direction, my leader."
Retired Lt. Col. Dan Wilson, former commander of 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, said Fuentes showed continuous strength and confidence while leading his platoon.
"Despite multiple over run attempts by the insurgents under heavy and accurate heavy machine gun and recoilless rifle fire, and just about everyone in the platoon suffering from some type of concussive wound, his platoon and their Afghan partners stood firm against the onslaught and in doing so changed the entire dynamic of northern Kunar," Wilson said. "The amazing thing is that the men of his company will tell you that in a very kinetic deployment, Fuentes' courage and leadership under fire was the norm and was displayed more times than can be counted."
A native of Jackson, Calif., Fuentes enlisted in the Army in January 2004. His assignments include 1st Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment at Fort Campbell, Ky., and the 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. He deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan during those assignments. Fuentes has been assigned to 6th RTB for four years.
In addition the Silver Star, Fuentes has earned the Bronze Star medal, the Purple Heart with one oak leaf cluster, the Meritorious Service Medal and the Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Ribbon, among others.
Wilson described Fuentes as a Soldier whose impact went well beyond his duty position.
"Despite being the junior ranking platoon sergeant in the battalion, he led the way in developing innovative training techniques both back in Hawaii and continuing on throughout our deployment to northern Kunar Province," Wilson said. "Because of his tactical and technical expertise, physical and mental toughness and just the way he carries himself, people want to be like him - subordinates, peers, and superiors alike."
With his Family in attendance, Fuentes honored and thanked his late grandfather Antonio Morrelo Fuentes for being an inspiration in the decision to serve his country.
"(He was) a man who gave his life for our country and gave me my inspiration, motivation, direction and purpose," Fuentes said. "This man never had the opportunity to talk to me but somehow had the largest impact on my life. I want to say it's because of my dad's stories, but I know it's because I was changed, pulled into a family I never knew existed. A family who was bonded from life experiences only found in the presence of death and sacrifice."