On Sunday, July 13, a remote combat outpost near the village of Wanat in Afghanistan's rugged Kunar province on the Pakistan border was nearly overrun by a combined force of some 200 Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters. The outpost was manned by men from the 173rd Airborne Brigade and Afghan Army personnel.
The attack was well coordinated and designed for one purpose -- to overrun the outpost and kill everyone in it. No way were the outnumbered Sky Soldiers from 2nd Platoon, C Co., 2nd Battalion, 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment going to let that happen.
Today's Stars & Stripes contains a stirring first-hand account by one of the men from Chosen Company that should inspire us and make us all thankful for their service and sacrifice. Here are the opening paragraphs, to give you a taste; read the whole thing.
Everything was on fire. The trucks. The bazaar. The grass.
It looked surreal. It looked like a movie.
That was what Spc. Tyler Stafford remembered thinking as he stepped onto the medical evacuation helicopter. The 23-year-old soldier would have been loaded onto the bird, but the poncho that was hastily employed as his stretcher broke. His body speckled with grenade and RPG shrapnel, the Vicenza, Italy, infantryman walked the last few feet to the waiting Black Hawk.
Here is a list of the brave warriors, those heroes, who were killed in action. We honor them and pray for their families.
- 1st Lt. Jonathan P. Brostrom, 24, of Hawaii.
- Sgt. Israel Garcia, 24, of Long Beach, Calif.
- Cpl. Jonathan R. Ayers, 24, of Snellville, Ga.
- Cpl. Jason M. Bogar, 25, of Seattle.
- Cpl. Jason D. Hovater, 24, of Clinton, Tenn.
- Cpl. Matthew B. Phillips, 27, of Jasper, Ga.
- Cpl. Pruitt A. Rainey, 22, of Haw River, N.C.
- Cpl. Gunnar W. Zwilling, 20, of Florissant, Mo.
- Pfc. Sergio S. Abad, 21, of Morganfield, Ky.
Fifteen other U.S. soldiers were wounded in the attack, which was the deadliest for the U.S. military in Afghanistan in three years.
Update: Stars and Stripes did a follow-up interview with 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team commander, Col. Charles Preysler, who is as proud of his me as he is pissed off at inaccurate media reports of the outpost being overrun in particular and the Afghanistan strategic situation in general. A sample:
"I get emotional about this, you'll have to forgive me," he said. "These guys have fought for 15 months, and they have fought harder, and I mean this literally, they have fought harder and (had) more engagements, more direct-fire engagements, than any brigade in the United States Army in probably the toughest terrain. These guys are absolutely veterans and they know what they're doing and they have that airborne spirit and they fought a very, very tough battle and held the ground and did everything they were supposed to do."