An officer with the Marine Corps Tactics and Operations Group will be awarded the Silver Star for risking his life to save his Iraqi linguist during a 2003 battle, the Marine Corps announced Monday.
Capt. Andrew Kim was initially awarded the Bronze Star, the fourth-highest combat award, for his bravery while serving as a counterintelligence specialist in Iraq. But a Department of Defense initiative initiated last year to review all valor awards presented after Sept. 11, 2001, determined that Kim's actions merited an upgrade, according to the announcement.
According to excerpts from Kim's award citation, his quick actions after his Iraqi team chief and linguist was attacked by a local civilian helped save the lives of his team.
On Aug. 6, 2003, Kim was a sergeant assigned to 1st Marine Division's Task Force Scorpion. He had been conducting operations with his team chief when another Iraqi man approached, pulled out a pistol, and shot the team chief in the neck, according to the release. Kim responded immediately, killing the attacker.
After that, Kim was hit and wounded by small-arms fire coming from the rear, the announcement states.
Despite his wounds, he made his way to the fallen team chief, loading him into a vehicle, and began to drive him away from the fight. Although five Iraqis in a white pickup truck chased Kim's vehicle and subjected it to "intense volleys of enemy fire," he was able to join a light armored reconnaissance security force and direct a counterattack, with deadly results.
"Kim's gallantry and effectiveness under fire saved the lives of all those conducting the mission," the announcement states. "By his bold initiative, undaunted courage and complete dedication to duty, Kim reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service."
Kim will be presented the award, the third-highest for combat valor, by Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Glenn Walters on Thursday. The ceremony will take place at Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California, where Kim is currently stationed.
He is the fifth Marine to receive an upgraded combat award as a result of the Pentagon's review.
In January, outgoing Navy Secretary Ray Mabus presented one Marine, Sgt. Michael Mendoza, with the prestigious Navy Cross for leading five Marines in a bold charge across an open field after his vehicle was disabled by a rocket-propelled grenade in Iraq. Mendoza had previously received the Silver Star.
Three other Marines, Sgt. Nicholas Brandau, Master Sgt. Steven Davis and Lance Cpl. Edward Huth, all received Silver Stars for combat heroism, having previously been presented with Bronze Stars. A Navy corpsman, Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Atkinson, was also presented with a Silver Star at the time.
In all, the Department of the Navy approved more than 30 awards upgrades, Navy officials have said. At least 23 have been presented or announced to date.