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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Nashua soldier to be awarded Medal of Honor for acts of valor during battle in Afghanistan

NASHUA – A Nashua resident will become the ninth living soldier to receive the military’s highest honor for actions of valor during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, according to the White House.

Staff Sgt. Ryan Pitts, 28, will receive the Medal of Honor from President Barack Obama on July 21 to recognize his “conspicuous gallantry” displayed during the July 13, 2008, Battle of Wanat in Afghanistan’s Kunar Province, according to the statement. ...

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NASHUA – A Nashua resident will become the ninth living soldier to receive the military’s highest honor for actions of valor during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, according to the White House.

Staff Sgt. Ryan Pitts, 28, will receive the Medal of Honor from President Barack Obama on July 21 to recognize his “conspicuous gallantry” displayed during the July 13, 2008, Battle of Wanat in Afghanistan’s Kunar Province, according to the statement.

Pitts, a native of Lowell, Mass., who grew up in Mont Vernon and graduated from Souhegan High School in Amherst, according to a story in the Boston Globe, was a member of the 2nd Platoon, Chosen Company, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, stationed at Vehicle Patrol Base Kahler in July 2008.

His actions came during one of the deadliest battles of the Afghan campaign and saved other soldiers’ lives by preventing enemy soldiers from overrunning the outpost, according to a story about Pitts and the Medal of Honor announcement posted on the Army Times website Monday afternoon.

“It’s a tremendous honor for a young man who demonstrated extraordinary valor on the field of battle,” New Hampshire National Guard Lt. Col. Gregory Heilshorn said. “New Hampshire should be very proud of Ryan and what he’s accomplished.”

The base was attacked by insurgents during the early morning hours of July 13, 2008.

Nine soldiers were killed and another 27 were injured, according the story.

Pitts, along with nearly all of the soldiers at the outpost, was injured during the first barrage of machine gun and small arms fire, RPG rockets and hand grenades.

He was hit with shrapnel and sustained a deep wound to his right thigh.

Without the use of his legs, he crawled forward to a fighting position, flung hand grenades at the insurgents and was able to radio updates to commanders.

He then pulled himself onto his knees and began firing a M240 B machine gun, according to the Army Times story.

The story described Pitts as the only contact between the fighting on the front lines and commanders. He was able to direct artillery toward the insurgent fighters.

Pitts was eventually joined by a handful of other soldiers who were able to regroup and continued fighting off the enemy fighters until air support made it to the outpost and medical helicopters flew him to safety more than an hour after he was critically wounded, according to the Army Times story.

Pitts’ is credited with playing a crucial role in preventing the enemy fighters from overwhelming the outpost and launching further attacks that would have killed more American soldiers.

“Because of his heroic actions, our country is safer, our freedom is stronger, and many of his fellow soldiers returned home safely to their families,” Gov. Maggie Hassan said in a statement released Monday. “The entire state of New Hampshire is deeply proud of Sergeant Pitts, and I join all Granite Staters in thanking him for his bravery, service and sacrifice.”

Pitts works for a computer software company. He left the Army from the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in 2009, according to the White House.

“Ryan is a thoughtful, articulate young man who believes this medal is not his, it’s his unit’s, which he calls his family,” Heilshorn said. “Some of his closest friends were killed that day.”

“Everybody sacrificed a lot that day,” Pitts told the Army Times. “I try to think about the guys we lost and try to do my best to honor them and the gift they gave me. I hate the word ‘hero.’ But I feel very fortunate when I look at the guys I served with. They’re my heroes. It was the honor of my lifetime to serve with them.”

Pitts joined the Army in 2003 and deployed to Afghanistan while stationed at Camp Ederle in Vicenza, Italy, after training at the U.S. Army Airborne School in Fort Benning, Ga. The Battle of Wanat occurred during Pitts’ second deployment.

Joseph G. Cote can be reached at 594-6415 or jcote@nashua
telegraph.com. Also, follow Cote on Twitter (@Telegraph_JoeC).