WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama will award the Medal of Honor to a former Army staff sergeant from New Hampshire who fought off enemy fighters during one of the bloodiest battles of the war in Afghanistan despite shrapnel injuries to both legs and an arm that left the young soldier critically wounded and resigned to certain death.
Obama is scheduled to bestow the medal on Ryan M. Pitts, of Nashua, during a White House ceremony on July 21. It is the nation’s highest decoration for battlefield valor.
Pitts also will become the ninth living recipient of the medal for actions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The medal recognizes the “courageous actions” shown by Pitts while he served as a forward observer with 2nd Platoon, Chosen Company, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, when Vehicle Patrol Base Kahler, near Wanat Village in Kunar Province, in remote northeastern Afghanistan, came under full-scale assault by approximately 200 Taliban fighters on July 13, 2008.
Deep into battle, Pitts found himself alone at the observation post and losing blood. He radioed to tell his superiors that everyone else was either dead or gone, but was told reinforcements were not available. Resigned to death, he began firing a grenade launcher almost directly overhead to where insurgents had concealed themselves.
Four soldiers soon made their way from the casualty collection point to find Pitts fighting for his life. They were followed by attack helicopters that provided air support. Despite being nearly unconscious, Pitts stayed in touch with headquarters and provided the feedback that was needed to help guide the air strikes.
He was evacuated after fighting for more than an hour despite his wounds, along with three of the soldiers who came to his aid. The fourth soldier had been fatally wounded.
“Throughout the battle, despite the loss of blood and severity of his wounds, Pitt’s incredible toughness, determination, and ability to communicate with leadership while under fire allowed U.S. forces to hold the (observation post) and turn the tide of the battle,” according to the military’s narrative of the battle.
“Without his ability to stay alert and fight while critically wounded, the enemy would have gained a foothold on high ground and inflicted significantly greater causalities onto the vehicle patrol base, and the enemy could have been in possession of seven fallen Americans.”
Pitts left the service in October 2009 and currently works in business development for the computer software industry. He joined the Army in 2003 at age 17.
Last week, Obama awarded the Medal of Honor to retired Cpl. William “Kyle” Carpenter, who lost an eye after taking a grenade blast in Afghanistan to save a fellow Marine.
Associated Press writer Lolita C. Baldor contributed to this report.
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