13 August 2014

Survivors of Battle of Wanat Find Closure at Medal of Honor Ceremony

Dr. Justin Madill served on a medevac helicopter in Afghanistan. Madill recently received the Air Medal with “V” device for valor. Photo: Courtesy of Justin Madill.

Another unsung Hero of the Battle of Wanat, MEDEVAC Flight Surgeon Dr. Justin Madill. In 2008, Madill was the 2-17 Cavalry, Task Force Flight Surgeon in the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade and was also the medical director for the C6-101 Helicopter Medical Evacuation (MEDEVAC) Platoon and the Pathfinder Combat Search and Rescue Team. During that deployment, Madill flew and supervised missions for 479 patients, personally transported 143 patients, and extracted 49 patients from the battlefield.

In the early hours of July 13, 2008, a battle was raging in Wanat, Afghanistan.

In the final hours of the battle, a medevac helicopter flew in, navigating through heavy fire from enemy and U.S. forces to rescue the injured.

Dr. Justin Madill, 39, was the doctor on that helicopter. The Billings native now lives in Great Falls and is an emergency room physician at Benefis Health System. His parents, Cecil and Linda Madill, also live in Great Falls.

"There was really no good place to land," Madill said. "I thought for sure I was going to die."

Madill and other medics had to climb down farming terraces and through razor wire to reach the troops and then help them back up to the helicopter.

Staff Sgt. Ryan Pitts was one of the troops Madill pulled out that day.

Last month, Pitts was awarded the Medal of Honor at the White House for his actions during the battle.

Madill and the other troops involved attended the ceremony.

It was the first time they were all together again, in a calm and safe situation, Madill said.

At the ceremony, he also met family members of those killed during his deployment, including Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Kahler, for whom the outpost at Wanat was named.

Kahler was Pitt's platoon sergeant who was killed in January 2008 and was Madill's first medevac mission in Afghanistan.

"It gave everyone a sense of closure," Madill said. "It was a bigger deal than I thought it was going to be."

For his actions at Wanat, Madill received the Air Medal with "V" device for valor.

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