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President Obama bestowed the Medal of Honor on former Army Staff Sgt. Ryan M. Pitts in the East Room of the White House on Monday. Pitts made a full recovery from his injuries.

Jacquelyn Martin • Associated Press,

Afghan vet held the line as his comrades fell

  • Article by: JOSH LEDERMAN Associated Press
  • July 21, 2014 - 9:10 PM

 

– Bleeding from both legs and his arm, Ryan Pitts kept firing at about 200 Taliban fighters, even holding onto his grenades an extra moment to ensure that the enemy couldn’t heave them back.

On Monday, President Obama draped the Medal of Honor around his neck, in a somber ceremony that also paid tribute to his nine platoon comrades who died in June 2008 in Afghanistan.

Pitts, 28, a former Army staff sergeant from Nashua, N.H., is the ninth living veteran of U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to receive the nation’s highest decoration for battlefield valor. Obama praised Pitts for holding the line as his ­comrades fell in one of the bloodiest battles of the war.

“It is remarkable that we have young men and women serving in our military who, day in and day out, perform with so much integrity, so much humility and so much courage,” Obama said. “Ryan represents the very best of that tradition.”

Pitts’ mission that summer day was supposed to be his last before returning home from his second tour. After all, Pitts and his team had been in the country for 14 months, the Army said, battling frequently with enemy forces in northeastern Afghanistan’s mountainous Waygal Valley.

The goal was to move troops and equipment out of Combat Outpost Bella, a remote post roughly 10 miles from the nearest base, to a new site nearby.

At 4 a.m., Pitts was manning his post. On the horizon, he could see the blue-roofed buildings and protective stone walls of the town of Wanat.

What Pitts couldn’t know was that all of those buildings were concealing enemy fighters. About 200 of them soon launched a full-scale assault. A cascade of rocket-fired grenades, gunfire and hand grenades fell on the troops. At one point, Pitts accepted that he was going to die, Obama said. But he kept fighting anyway.

“That little post was on the verge of falling, giving the enemy a perch to devastate the base below,” Obama said. “Against that onslaught, one American held the line.”

© 2014 Star Tribune