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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The men Ryan Pitts wants you to know

Telegraph Editorial

Today, we take our cue from Sgt. Ryan Pitts, the Nashua man feted at a White House ceremony Monday at which he received the Medal of Honor in front of family, friends and assorted dignitaries.

President Barack Obama lauded him for his acts of heroism on July 13, 2008, during the battle of Wanat in northeastern Afghanistan, regarded as one of the bloodiest in the Afghanistan War. Roughly 200 enemy fighters attacked and nearly overran a position held by Pitts and his fellow soldiers. Pitts sustained multiple wounds but still manned a machine gun, threw grenades at approaching enemy forces and, as the president recounted Monday, “against that onslaught, one American held the line.” ...

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Today, we take our cue from Sgt. Ryan Pitts, the Nashua man feted at a White House ceremony Monday at which he received the Medal of Honor in front of family, friends and assorted dignitaries.

President Barack Obama lauded him for his acts of heroism on July 13, 2008, during the battle of Wanat in northeastern Afghanistan, regarded as one of the bloodiest in the Afghanistan War. Roughly 200 enemy fighters attacked and nearly overran a position held by Pitts and his fellow soldiers. Pitts sustained multiple wounds but still manned a machine gun, threw grenades at approaching enemy forces and, as the president recounted Monday, “against that onslaught, one American held the line.”

But that one American wanted Monday’s medal ceremony to be about his friends and fellow soldiers who gave their lives in that battle.

“The real heroes are the nine men who made the ultimate sacrifice so the rest of us could return home,” Pitts said of the soldiers who died fighting alongside him. “It is their names, not mine, that I want people to know.”

Fortunately, President Obama took the time during the ceremony to say a little about each of those men – Sergio Abad, Jonathan Ayers, Jason Bogar, Jonathan Brostrom, Israel Garcia, Jason Hovater, Matthew Phillips, Pruitt Rainey and Gunnar Zwilling – who meant so much to Ryan Pitts.

“Most of all,” said the president, “Ryan says he considers this medal ‘a memorial for the guys who didn’t come home.’ So today, we honor nine American soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice for us all:

n “The son who ‘absorbed love like a sponge’; the expectant father whose dream would later come true, a beautiful baby girl – Spc. Sergio Abad.

n “The boy who dominated the soccer fields and fell in love with motorcycles, and there in that remote outpost took a direct hit in the helmet and kept on fighting – Cpl. Jonathan Ayers.

n “The photographer whose beautiful pictures captured the spirit of the Afghan people, and who wrote to his family, ‘Afghanistan is exactly (where) … I wanted to be’ – Cpl. Jason Bogar.

n “The father who loved surfing with his son; the platoon leader who led a dash through the gunfire to that post to reinforce his men – 1st Lt. Jonathan Brostrom.

n “An immigrant from Mexico who became a proud American soldier, on his third tour, whose final thoughts were of his family and his beloved wife, Lesly – Sgt. Israel Garcia.

n “A young man of deep faith, who served God and country, who could always get a laugh with his impersonation of his commander – Cpl. Jason Hovater.

n “The husband who couldn’t wait to become an uncle; the adventurous spirit who in every photo from Afghanistan has a big smile on his face – Cpl. Matthew Phillips.

n “The big guy with an even bigger heart, a prankster whose best play was cleaning up at the poker table with his buddies and his dad – Cpl. Pruitt Rainey.

n “And the youngest, just 20 years old, the ‘little brother’ of the platoon, who loved to play guitar, and who, says his dad, did everything in his life with passion – Cpl. Gunnar Zwilling.

“These American patriots lived to serve us all,” Obama said. “They died to protect each of us. And their legacy lives on in the hearts of all who love them still, especially their families. Mothers. Fathers. Wives. Brothers and sisters. Sons and daughters.”

We think it says something special about Sgt. Pitts, who graduated from Souhegan High School in Amherst, that on the day he was being honored by his country with our highest military honor, he sought to deflect the attention onto a group of men he believed were more deserving, and did so in front of their families.

It occurred to us that the grace with which Pitts has handled the whole thing is a clear indication that he is made of the same stout stuff as those other men, and our country would be hard-pressed to find a better man to carry their legacies.