Well done. I'm sure the guys appreciate the recognition, even as they mourn your losses.
KABUL — Fourteen U.S. service members have received Germany's Gold Cross Medal for their bravery in extracting wounded German soldiers from a firefight in northeast Afghanistan — the first time the award has been given to troops from another nation.
The Americans, all members of the U.S. Army's 12th Combat Aviation Brigade, received the medals — one of Germany's highest awards for valor — on Wednesday at a German base in Kunduz province.
The U.S. crewmen were honored for risking their lives to rescue German soldiers ambushed by more than 200 Taliban fighters during a patrol April 2 near the provincial capital of Kunduz. Eleven German soldiers were critically wounded, and the battle was still active when U.S. Black Hawk evacuation helicopters arrived.
"We came under very heavy fire," said Jason LaCrosse, chief warrant officer three. "We couldn't land at first, but we came back in a second time and loaded two casualties, brought them back to the hospital, then we went back to get more."
Three of the German soldiers died of their wounds.
"We've had a strong partnership with the German soldiers," said Sgt. Antonio Gattis. "These guys are like family to us, so we took it personally when they got injured and just went out there and did what we had to do."
In addition to LaCrosse and Gattis, the medal recipients were Capt. Robert McDonough, Chief Warrant Officers 3 Steven Husted and Nelson Visaya, Chief Warrant Officers 2 Jason Brown, Sean Johnson and Eric Wells, Staff Sgt. Travis Brown, Sgts. William Ebel and Steven Shumaker, and Spcs. Matthew Baker, Todd Marchese and Gregory Martinez.
“My thought was just for the wounded Soldiers,” after the ceremony a tearful U.S. Army Sgt. Steven Shumaker, crew chief, 5th Bn., 158th Av. Regmt., said. “My own safety wasn’t a concern. Our goal was to get those guys out or die trying.”
And here's the B-Roll of the awards ceremony in which ISAF Chief of Staff, German Army Lt. Gen. Bruno Kasdorf presents the Gold Cross of Honor to members of 5-158th Aviation Battalion. This is the first time the award has ever been issued to a service member outside of German armed forces. We're so proud of and grateful for this moving gesture by the German Bundeswehr, and very impressed by the speed at which the medals were authorized.