Green Beret Medic 'Deserves' Medal of Honor, Team Members Say

The White House announced that Staff Sgt. Ronald J. Shurer II will receive the Medal of Honor for going above and beyond the call of duty April 6, 2008, while in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom. (Courtesy photo from Ronald J. Shurer II)
The White House announced that Staff Sgt. Ronald J. Shurer II will receive the Medal of Honor for going above and beyond the call of duty April 6, 2008, while in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom. (Courtesy photo from Ronald J. Shurer II)

Army Special Forces Sgt. 1st Class Dillon Behr remembers saying a prayer and preparing to die as he lay bleeding, with a battle raging all around him in the mountains of Afghanistan, 10 years ago.

"I had been hit up with morphine and at one point I was thinking I was going to pass," said Behr, who at the time was suffering from gunshot wounds to the hip and arm. "I said a little prayer to myself and ... I felt a nice calm come over me."

At that moment, Behr recalls Green Beret Staff Sgt. Ronald Shurer II reassuring him he was going to be OK.

"Ron slapped me across the face and said 'wake up, you are not going to die today.' And I knew at that point I was going to make it."

Shurer, now a 37-year-old Secret Service agent, will receive the Medal of Honor in an Oct. 1 ceremony at the White House to honor the heroism he showed April 6, 2008 during a six-hour battle in Afghanistan's unforgiving Shok Valley.

Shurer was a senior medical sergeant in 3rd Special Forces Group's Operational Detachment Alpha 3336 when the unit launched on a mission to capture or kill a high-value enemy target located in a remote village, surrounded by rugged peaks.

Army helicopters inserted the Special Forces team and a force of about 100 Afghan commandos and additional interpreters at an elevation of about 10,000 feet.

"The helicopters weren't able to land in the valley because the area we were in was just so rocky; we had to jump about 10 feet from the helicopters," Shurer recalled.

All was quiet at first as the three elements of the mission force began the thousand-foot climb to the village where the target was located. But that quickly changed as the lead assault force entered the village.

A large enemy force opened fire from the mountains above, attacking the assault force, the command element and the support element to the rear.

"I saw a couple of guys running along the hill and then like everything just opened up on us -- small arms fire, machine guns, [rocket propelled grenades]," Shurer said. "In those first few minutes, I got the first calls for a medic."

Shurer sprinted under fire, stopping to give first aid to wounded Afghans and Americans.

As he moved his way up the hillside, he saw one of his interpreters, an Afghan known as "CK" to the team, who appeared dead.

But Shurer had to focus on who he thought he could save.

"I started doing triage and went to Dillon first; he had wounds to the arm and hip," Shurer said. "I didn't want to move him anymore than I had to with his hip injury so for a few moments I took off my helmet and set it aside so I could see underneath him without rolling him anymore than I possibly had to."

The bullet had passed through Behr's hip. Controlling bleeding was a problem.

"He just had this constant bleeding," Shurer said. "Eventually I just got to the point where I was using ... a hemostatic agent used to coagulate the blood to form clots -- because the bullet wound was so small, I just resorted to pouring some of on his wound and using my fingers to kind of shove it in and then bandaged him up as tight as I could."

With another soldiers assisting Behr, Shurer went back to check on CK.

"I felt the obligation to him to go and do one more check just to see if I missed something," Shurer said. "Unfortunately, he had unsurvivable wounds."

The entire time, he could "feel those rounds coming in; I could still feel the dirt kicking up."

Shurer treated another American who was hit in the arm, nearly severing the limb. He watched another soldier get shot in the body armor chest plate and go back into the fight.

Minutes later, that same soldier was hit again.

"A bullet hit his left arm and came through and hit me in the helmet," Shurer said. "It was like I got hit in head with a baseball bat."

Shurer said he remembers asking Behr, "Am I all right?"

Behr also remember that moment.

"I seem to remember that happening about two inches from my face," he said. "Frankly, Ron was a little bit shell-shocked, and started to take off his helmet. And I remember reaching up and ... I was like Ron, no, get your helmet on."

Shurer added that "I was trying to check myself, but I had blood everywhere."

Lt. Col. Kyle Walton commanded the mission that day.

"We had multiple elements on the ground and one of those elements that I was with was pinned down on an approximately hundred-foot cliff, with nowhere to go and bullets impacting within inches for an extended period of time," Walton, now 39, recalled.

Many members of the ODA, commandos and interpreters had been wounded, he said.

"When I called for Ron to come up there, clearly their wounds exceeded medical capacity of what we were able to do. I remember Ron came," he said. "And that was just the beginning; he had already treated several casualties on the ground in a rapidly deteriorating situation."

Air Force F-15 Eagles and A-10 Thunderbolt IIs conducted danger-close airstrikes to keep the enemy from closing in on the embattled force.

"Bullets were ricocheting off of our equipment; two went off my helmet and one went off Ron's," Walton said.

"As we heard the enemy closing in directly above us, I remember turning and trying to get a shot and instinctively reaching for a hand grenade ... I had always carried that grenade in case it came down to it was either us or them.

"I remembered saying a prayer out loud just, 'God help us' ... Right after I said that prayer, there was a pretty devastating explosion directly on top of our position. Had those pilots had not put it a couple feet to the left or right of where they put it, none of us would be sitting here today."

The first thing Walton recalls noticing was Shurer's dedication to the wounded.

"As my ears were popping and the dust was clearing ... what I remember from that battle was Ron Shurer had his body over the casualties," Walton said, adding that Shurer epitomizes the values of "Green Berets everywhere."

Little by little, Shurer and his fellow Green Berets were able to move the wounded down the mountain to the valley where they could be evacuated.

"Luckily, we had amazing aircrews willing to fly into a horrible environment and start getting guys out for us," said Shurer, who was shot in the left arm that day, but didn't realize it until hours later.

After six hours, Shurer's unit was forced to abandon the mission because of mounting casualties and approaching bad weather that would make it impossible for air support to continue to operate.

Through it all, Shurer's teammates say that their medic kept a bad situation from becoming a disaster.

"His ability to manage an unmanageable situation and remain calm, collected and cool -- he always was that guy, whether it was hanging out or training or whatever, but it really came to light during the worst possible time and that is the reason we were all able to make it away from that position alive and as a team," said 36-year-old Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Williams.

Shurer, Behr, Walton and Williams were awarded Silver Stars in December 2008 for their actions during that mission.

Shurer said didn't find out his Silver Star had been upgraded until Sept. 4, when President Donald Trump called him and told him he was going to receive the Medal of Honor.

The honor comes a year after Shurer received the tragic news that he is suffering from stage 4 lung cancer, Shurer said, explaining that he went to the doctor because "I had a few aches and pains that just wouldn't go away."

Despite his condition, he continues to serve in the U.S. Secret Service.

"I was on the counter-assault team; now I work in counter-assault team operations," he said. "I don't protect the president anymore, but I make sure someone else is always there."

Shurer's wife of 12 years, Miranda, and his two sons, 10-year-old Cameron and 7-year-old Tyler -- whose middle name is Edris after "our interpreter who was killed that day -- will watch as President Trump presents Shurer with the nation's highest medal for valor.

Walton, Williams and Behr will also attend the ceremony.

Behr, who medically retired in 2010, said he always thought it was strange that his good friend, the man who saved his life, had initially received a Silver Star for his actions that day.

"It didn't seem logical that he and I would receive the same award considering what he did versus what I did," Behr said.

"So to see his medal elevated really means a lot ... it makes sense. It's what he deserves."

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to correct Williams' rank.

-- Matthew Cox can be reached at matthew.cox@military.com.

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