NewsPublic Affairs / July 21, 2014

Afghan Vet, Who Held Off Taliban Attack On His Own, Will Receive Medal Of Honor

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Afghan Vet, Who Held Off Taliban Attack On His Own, Will Receive Medal Of Honor

Army Sgt. Ryan Pitts will be the ninth living veteran to receive the nation's highest award for valor for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan, when President Obama presents him with the Medal of Honor later today.

As NPR's Tom Bowman reports, Pitts is credited with holding off a brutal Taliban attack back in 2008. Tom filed this report for our Newscast unit:

"Soldiers from Chosen Company were setting up an outpost in the rugged hills near the Pakistan border. Suddenly they came under attack by more than a hundred Taliban fighters.

"Mike Denton and the other soldiers saw much of the fire was focused on Chosen Company's separate observation post or OP, set a hundred yards away on a hillside.

"Ryan Pitts was in that OP and the only one left alive. He tossed grenades, helped call in airstrikes, and comforted the dying. Denton and others eventually were able to come to Pitts' aid.

"'Him staying up there and holding that position definitely kept the day from getting a lot worse,' Denton said.

"Still the attack was one of the worst of the Afghan war: Nine Americans killed, 27 wounded."


According to the Army, after Pitts realized he was all alone, that all the soldiers around him were gone, he radioed the command post, but was told they had no one who could help.

Pitts said he wasn't angry about that. Instead, he kept fighting.

"I basically reconciled that I was going to die, and made my peace with it," he told the Army. "My personal goal was to just to try and take as many of them with me, before they got me."

Public radio's Here and Now spoke to Pitts earlier this month. He told the news magazine that when he was first told about the honor, he wasn't happy, because he didn't think he deserved it.

"But time has allowed me to process it," Pitts said. "And this was a team effort. It belongs to every man there that day and I'll accept it on behalf of the team. It's not mine."

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