BY DUANE A.VACHON PH.D. When the history books are written, the Battle of Wanat will undoubtedly go down as one of the most controversial of the Afghanistan war. Nine U.S. soldiers died in the battle and 27 others were wounded.
Pitts is the ninth living recipient of the Medal of Honor from the War in Afghanistan. Pitts joined the Army in 2003 at his home town of Nashua New Hampshire at the age of 17 under the delayed entry program. He attended basic training and advanced individual training at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma.
Pitts then went to the U.S. Army Airborne School at Fort Benning, Ga., before being assigned as a radio telephone operator for the 4th Battalion, 319th Field Artillery Regiment and 173rd Airborne Brigade at Camp Ederle, Italy from 2004-2005. He remained headquartered at Camp Ederle as part of the 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Abn. Bde. from 2006 to 2009.
Over the years as I do the research for these articles I have always tried to be mindful of any characteristics that the heroes that I am writing about might have in common. The following story reflects a characteristic that many of them share.
There was a young boy named Evan Pertile who had cancer. But what defined Evan was his love of all things Military. When Evan started having trouble finding the strength to eat, soldiers started sending encouragement and telling him he needed to eat if he wanted to grow up to be big and strong and join the army. But Pitts on his own dime actually went from New Hampshire down to Tennessee to meet Evan. During that visit Pitts presented Evan with a maroon Paratroopers beret. That made Evan’s day and in fact gave him the motivation to make a full recovery. Evan and his mother were at the ceremony this week when Pitts received the Medal of Honor from President Obama. Pitts with Evan Pertile
Pitts made the trip to Tennessee with no fanfare; he did it because that’s who he is. A quiet achiever who cares about others.
“In Ryan Pitts you see the humility and the loyalty that define America’s men and women in uniform,” President Obama said at a White House ceremony.
Pitts insists that the honor is not his alone. It’s a distinction he shares with the men he fought alongside that fateful day in the summer of 2008. Nine died and 27 were wounded, including Pitts, in the battle of Wanat, one of the fiercest of the entire war.
“Valor was everywhere that day and the real heroes are the nine men who made the ultimate sacrifice so the rest of us could return home. It is their names, not mine, that I want people to know,” Pitts told reporters today.
It was before dawn when hundreds of Taliban fighters launched their attack, far outnumbering the U.S. troops defending their partially completed base outside the village of Wanat in northeastern Afghanistan.
For nearly two hours, Pitts, who was 22 years old at the time, helped fend off the enemy fighters from his isolated observation post. After suffering severe shrapnel wounds, Pitts crawled from position to position, lobbing grenades and firing at the enemy, resigning himself to certain death, the President said.
“As the insurgents moved in, Ryan picked up a grenade, pulled the pin, and held that live grenade — for a moment, then another, then another — finally hurling it so they couldn’t throw it back. And he did that again. And he did it again,” the President explained.
“Unable to stand, Ryan pulled himself up on his knees and manned a machine gun. Soldiers from the base below made a daring run, dodging bullets and explosions, and joined the defense. But now the enemy was inside the post — so close they were throwing rocks at the Americans, so close they came right up to the sandbags. Eight American soldiers had now fallen. And Ryan Pitts was the only living soldier at that post,” Obama said.
The enemy got so close that Pitts could hear their voices. “He whispered into the radio he was the only one left and was running out of ammo,” Obama said.
The battle later spurred an investigation and, as the President noted, a report concluded Wanat had “significant vulnerabilities.” As Commander-in-Chief, the President said one way to honor the fallen is “by heeding the lessons of Wanat.”
“When this nation sends our troops into harm’s way, they deserve a sound strategy and a well-defined mission. And they deserve the forces and support to get the job done,” he said. “That’s how we can truly honor all those who gave their lives that day. … They’re hard lessons, but they’re ones that are deeply engrained in our hearts.”
“As Pitts put it, it’s going to be tough topping this one, as anniversaries go,” the President joked. “But let me just give you a piece of advice as somebody who now has been married for over 20 years: You should try.”
Medal of Honor citation
Sergeant Ryan M. Pitts distinguished himself by extraordinary acts of heroism at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a Forward Observer in 2d Platoon, Chosen Company, 2d Battalion(Airborne),503d Infantry Regiment, 173d Airborne Brigade, during combat operations against an armed enemy at Vehicle Patrol Base Kahler in the vicinity of Wanat Village, Kunar Provinc
Early that morning, while Sergeant Pitts was providing perimeter security at Observation Post Topside, a well-organized Anti-Afghan Force consisting of over 200 members initiated a close proximity sustained and complex assault using accurate and intense rocket-propelled grenade, machine gun and small arms fire on Wanat Vehicle Patrol Base. An immediate wave of rocket-propelled grenade rounds engulfed the Observation Post wounding Sergeant Pitts and inflicting heavy casualties. Sergeant Pitts had been knocked to the ground and was bleeding heavily from shrapnel wounds to his arm and legs, but with incredible toughness and resolve, he subsequently took control of the Observation Post and returned fire on the enemy.
As the enemy drew nearer, Sergeant Pitts threw grenades, holding them after the pin was pulled and the safety lever was released to allow a nearly immediate detonation on the hostile forces. Unable to stand on his own and near death because of the severity of his wounds and blood loss, Sergeant Pitts continued to lay suppressive fire until a two-man reinforcement team arrived. Sergeant Pitts quickly assisted them by giving up his main weapon and gathering ammunition all while continually lobbing fragmentary grenades until these were expended.
At this point, Sergeant Pitts crawled to the northern position radio and described the situation to the Command Post as the enemy continued to try and isolate the Observation Post from the main Patrol Base. With the enemy close enough for him to hear their voices, and with total disregard for his own life, Sergeant Pitts whispered in radio situation reports and conveyed information that the Command Post used to provide indirect fire support.
Sergeant Pitts’ courage, steadfast commitment to the defense of his unit and ability to fight while seriously wounded prevented the enemy from overrunning the Observation Post and capturing fallen American soldiers, and ultimately prevented the enemy from gaining fortified positions on higher ground from which to attack Wanat Vehicle Patrol Base. Sergeant Ryan M. Pitts’ extraordinary heroism and selflessness above and beyond the call of duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, Company C, 2d Battalion (Airborne), 503d Infantry Regiment, 173d Airborne Brigade and the United States Army.
//Barak Obama // President
Staff Sergeant Pitt’s awards and decorations include the Medal of Honor, Bronze Star Medal w/ “V” Device, Purple Heart, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal w/ three Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters, Army Achievement Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal with Bronze Clasp and two Loops, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with Two Campaign Stars, Global War on Terrorism Medal, Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon with Numeral “4”, NATO Medal, Presidential Unit Citation, Valorous Unit Award, Combat Action Badge, Pathfinder Badge, Parachutist Badge as well as 2 service stripes and 4 Overseas Service Bars.
Pitts now lives in Nashua, N.H., where he works in business development for a software company. He is married and has a 1-year-old son, Lucas. He was awarded the Medal of Honor on his second wedding anniversary.
The information in this article was sourced from a variety of sources both internal and external. Every effort was made to ensure that the information is current and correct. These articles are presented to honor the heroes they are written about.
If you can read this, thank a teacher. If you can read this in English, thank a veteran