For actions considered heroic and courageous in the eyes of fellow Marines and the president of the United States, former Sgt. Matthew Parker was awarded the Silver Star on Friday.
Four companies of Marines stood in formation to honor Parker. Friends, fellow Marines and family members sat under tents that overlooked the grassy area where Parker was recognized.
The full citation, signed for Barrack Obama by Lt. Gen. Robert Neller, commandant of the Marine Corps, was read aloud.
Maj. Gen. Brian Beaudreault shook Parker's hand over and over, speaking so only Parker could hear, as he handed over the red case containing the Silver Star certificate, which was awarded for Parker's actions while serving in Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom on May 21, 2011.
On that day Parker's platoon was under enemy fire when the platoon commander and squad leader were injured and incapacitated, according to the award citation. Parker "boldly assumed control" of two rifle squads, a Combined Anti-Armor Team section, a vehicle mobile element and a sniper team.
Through Parker's coordinated firing and maneuvering, the citation reads, the platoon and supporting elements destroyed two enemy machinegun positions. Parker then guided the firefight, forcing the enemy to withdraw. He evacuated casualties and withdrew his force to the closest patrol base.
Parker's platoon sergeant, Josh Wartchow, said he was at the patrol base when the snipers saw the incoming attack.
"Matt kept communicating back to us everything that was going on," Wartchow said, adding that the communication between Parker and the patrol base was key to the success of the Marines that day.
"Wear that thing proudly," Beaudreault said, pointing at Parker, who was wearing the Silver Star. "You won on that day."
Beaudreault told the gathered Marines and civilians that Parker represented everything the Marine Corps could hope for in leadership.
"On that particular day, eight years into your enlistment, is when everything we want to teach the young NCOs out here that stand in this formation, you manifested on the battlefield," Beaudreault told Parker.
Wartchow said Parker being awarded the Silver Star has been in motion for years.
"It was an amazing day when he called me" to say he was receiving the Silver Star, Wartchow said.
Many Marines were awarded for their actions that day and the lower level awards had to be presented prior to Parker receiving the Silver Star, Wartchow said.
Parker's nomination was also put on administrative hold in the wake of a 2012 scandal related to a videotaped incident involving Marines from 3/2 and enemy corpses, according to the Marine Corps Times, which cited a Marine spokesman. Parker was not involved in the videotaped incident.
- Parker said he was in his commander's office four years ago when he learned he'd been nominated for the Silver Star. It was approved on Dec. 31, according to MCT.
"It kind of feels like big shoes to fill," Parker told The Daily News.
Parker, wearing a grey suit with a pink shirt popping with color underneath, stood with a row of family members as Marine after Marine shook his hand and congratulated him following the ceremony.
"I didn't do anything special," Parker said. "I just did what I was supposed to do and luckily I had good Marines who were backing me up."