Another COP Keating medal to get an upgrade

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Another COP Keating medal to get an upgrade

There's no doubt in my mind that the Battle of COP Keating, or the Battle of Kamdesh as it is sometimes called, will be the defining battle of Afghanistan.  It was straight up Alamo type craziness, and the medal count from it is beyond belief.  From Wiki:

27 Soldiers were awarded the Purple Heart for wounds sustained in combat. 37 Soldiers were awarded the Army Commendation Medal with "V" device for valor. 3 Soldiers were awarded the Bronze Star Medal, and 18 others the Bronze Star Medal with "V" device for valor. 9 Soldiers were awarded the Silver Star for valor.

The flight crews of three United States Army AH-64D Apache helicopters were later decorated for actions during the battle. Captain Matthew Kaplan, CW3 Ross Lewallen, CW3 Randy Huff, CW2 Gary Wingert, CW2 Chad Bardwell, and CW2 Chris Wright were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for conducting close combat attacks on the Taliban during the battle. Capt. Michael Polidor, pilot of one of the F-15E aircraft coordinating close air support, was also awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

And now one of those Silver Stars is about to be upgraded:

Almost a decade after a notorious battle at an infamous Afghanistan combat outpost that killed eight soldiers, wounded 27 and garnered two Medals of Honor, a noncommissioned officer’s family will see his posthumous Silver Star upgraded.

Staff Sgt. Justin Gallegos, killed in October 2009 at the Battle of Kamdesh, will be awarded the Distinguished Service Cross on Dec. 15, a spokesman for U.S. Army Alaska confirmed to Army Times on Tuesday.

“Our family is honored by this recognition for our brother, Justin,” Amber Gallegos, Justin’s sister, told Army Times. “It is truly remarkable that he continues to be awarded for his service.”

Gallegos deployed to Nuristan’s COP Keating with 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division out of Fort Carson, Colorado. The ceremony will be held at Joint Base Richardson-Elemendorf, Alaska, where Gallegos’ teenage son now lives with his mother.

Now the final citation hasn't been released yet for some reason, but presumably it will be mostly the same as his now-existing Silver Star citation:

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress July 9, 1918 (amended by an act of July 25, 1963), takes pride in presenting the Silver Star (Posthumously) to Staff Sergeant Justin T. Gallegos, United States Army, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in connection with military operations against an armed hostile force while serving with the 3d Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM in Afghanistan on 3 October 2009. As a team leader, Staff Sergeant Gallegos maneuvered under heavy sniper and RPG fire to reinforce a Western battle position and called for fire on several enemy positions. Staff Sergeant Gallegos planned and initiated a course of action that enabled a section of Soldiers to regroup and provide security to endure the remaining hours of battle and counterattack the enemy force. His gallant actions and dedicated devotion to duty, without regard for his own life, were in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.

This has been in the works for some time, spearheaded by a Congresswoman (and combat pilot of Afghanistan) Martha McSally who represents Tucson where Gallegos is from.  And it was particularly important for my buddy Clint Romesha who has been pushing this for years.

“SSG Gallegos bravely fought and gave his life in service to our country and his fellow soldiers. He embodies what the Distinguished Service Cross stands to honor. He is worthy of this distinction, and we are indebted to this Arizonan hero for his striking courage and sacrifice. My amendment ensures he receives this long overdue recognition,” said Congresswoman McSally, who has been deployed six times to the Middle East and Afghanistan.

Clint Romesha is a Medal of Honor recipient who fought alongside Staff SSG Gallegos in Afghanistan. “The battle in which Staff SSG Gallegos fought and perished took place on October 3, 2009, and the heroics that he performed in combat were critical both to the successful defense of Combat Outpost Keating and the survival of all but eight members of Black Knight Troop,” said Romesha.

Romesha added, “For almost a decade, the men who fought shoulder-to-shoulder with Staff Sgt. Gallegos, along with his wife, son, and members of his extended family, have all been patiently waiting for the Army to properly honor his sacrifice. I welcome this amendment and the commemoration made possible by it as an important final step in memorializing one of the finest soldiers, as well one of the bravest human beings, with whom I've ever had the honor to serve.” 

Now I know I've posted this video about 20 times, but you are getting it again, because no matter how many times I post it, it will never be enough.  It's probably my favorite MOH video.

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News from the World of Military and Veterans Issues. Iraq and A-Stan in parenthesis reflects that the author is currently deployed to that theater.