‘Steadfast and Loyal’ soldier awarded Medal of Honor
A “Steadfast and Loyal” Soldier of the 4th Infantry Division received his nation’s highest military decoration from President Barack Obama at a Feb. 11 ceremony for his heroic combat leadership Oct. 3, 2009 at Combat Outpost Keating, Afghanistan.
“If you seek a measure of that day, you need to look no further than the medals and ribbons that grace their chests,” said Obama in the East Room of the White House packed with friends and family of Army Staff Sgt. Clinton L. “Ro” Romesha, and the friends and families of his comrades lost that day.
“For their sustained heroism, 37 Army Commendation Medals; for their wounds, 27 Purple Hearts; for their valor, 18 Bronze Stars; for their gallantry, nine Silver Stars,” he said. “These men were outnumbered, outgunned and almost overrun—looking back, one of them said: ‘I’m surprised any of us made it out.’”
Romesha, a native of Lake City, Calif., was a section leader in his 3rd Squadron , 61st Cavalry Regiment of his division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team.
The day of the battle, the camp was attacked in the early morning by 300 anti-Afghanistan fighters, who occupied high ground and pressed the COP Keating from all four sides. The attackers were heavily-armed with rocket-propelled grenades, anti-aircraft machine guns and mortars, in addition to small arms.
Upon his own initiative, Romesha maneuvered against the enemy, uncovered and under intense fire, to not only take out fighters with heavy weapons, but to call for air strikes and medical evacuations.
As the battle raged, Romesha assembled a band of soldiers around him, whom he led in close combat against Taliban fighters inside the camp’s perimeter and to retrieve the remains of fallen comrades.
Romesha killed three insurgents with a Dragunov rifle and then made his way to the nearby Tactical Operations Center to report that the skin of camp had been breached.
Returning to the fight, Romesha, then led a five-man team to secure the camp’s ammunition supply point where other Taliban fighters were attempting to enter the camp. He and his team drove them back with grenades and small arms fire and secured the ammunition supply.
As the battle raged, the staff sergeant continued to fight and led others in the fight, ignoring his own wounds from grenade shrapnel.
Obama said, “Combat Outpost Keating was a collection of buildings of concrete and plywood with trenches and sandbags, of all the outposts in Afghanistan, Keating was among the most remote. It sat at the bottom of a steep valley, surrounded by mountains.”
There was investigation into the establishment of the camp, which found that the terrain ideal cover for insurgents to attack, the president said. “COP Keating, the investigation found, was ‘tactically indefensible.’ But that’s what these soldiers were asked to do — defend the indefensible.”
The day after the ceremony and reception at the White House, the Department of Defense will induct Romesha into the Pentagon’s Medal of Honor Wall of Heroes.
The Medal of Honor recipient left the Army in April 2011 and moved with his wife and children to North Dakota, where he works for an oil company, watches hockey games and restores his 100-year-old house.