Former Army Staff Sgt. Clinton Romesha attributes the acts of bravery that earned him the nation’s highest military award for valor in action to his team–not him alone.
“It means a lot of people did their jobs for that day,” Romesha told ABC’s Jonathan Karl of the significance of him receiving the award. “Battle buddies came together. People were looking out for each other, and just knowing we had a job to do and a tough fight. When you could look to your left and to your right, you counted on those guys, just like they counted on you, and that’s what it means.”
Romesha, 31, is the fourth living recipient of the Medal to have participated in the wars in Afghanistan or Iraq.
At a White House ceremony today, President Obama recognized Romesha for his actions to repel a deadly attack in October 2009 on their remote outpost in the mountains of Afghanistan near the Pakistan border.
“Clint Romesha decided to retake that camp,” Obama said. “Clint gathered up his guys, and they began to fight their way back, storming one building, then another, pushing the enemy back, having to actually shoot up at the enemy in the mountains above.”
“He and his team started charging as enemy fire poured down, and they kept charging, 50 meters, 80 meters, ultimately a hundred- meter run through a hail of bullets. And they reached their fallen friends, and they brought them home,” he said.
The attack by more than 300 Taliban fighters killed eight American soldiers and left 22 others wounded. “Each of these patriots gave their lives looking out for each other,” Obama said. “In a battle that raged all day, that brand of selflessness was displayed again and again and again — soldiers exposing themselves to enemy fire to pull a comrade to safety, tending to each other’s wounds, performing buddy transfusions, giving each other their own blood.”
Though they were vastly outnumbered, Romesha said it was their Army training that carried them through that day.
“We had the greatest soldiers. The best trained. I mean, that American spirit, that warrior spirit: that’s in our guys,” Romesha said. “They were outnumbered that day. They were.”
With bullets flying around him and taking fire himself — Romesha was wounded by shrapnel from a rocket-propelled grenade — the former non-commissioned officer said he relied on his training and thought only of the team he led.
“Why would you be thinking about anything else? They’re right there with you. Take care of them just like they’re taking care of you,” Romesha said.
Looking to the future, Romesha described the battle three years ago that earned him the military’s highest honor as just “one moment in life,” with many more to come.
What are his hopes and dreams for those moments?
“To watch the kids grow up. To be that dad and father that they’ve really missed out on the 11 years that I was in, you know, and to watch them grow up and be successful,” Romesha said. “I mean it’s what every father and husband wants.”
In April 2011, Romesha left the military and rejoined his wife, Tammy, and three kids, who now live in Minot, N.D.
“I can’t even tell you what it’s like to know he’s back,” Tammy told ABC News Monday with tears in her eyes. “He’s my rock.”
Tammy and their children as well as brothers and sisters, parents and grandparents joined Romesha at the ceremony today. Many of the families of his fallen comrades were also present.
“They’ll be there,” he said of the eight U.S. soldiers who perished beside him that day. “I know it.”