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FORT BRAGG, N.C. — Eight soldiers from Fort Bragg’s 3rd Special Forces Group were awarded Silver Stars for acts of valor while serving in Afghanistan on Thursday, including one who managed to catch an enemy grenade in the air and tossed it aside to protect his fellow soldiers.
Lt. Gen. Charles Cleveland, commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command, presented the awards during a ceremony at Fort Bragg. Cleveland also bestowed 28 Bronze Star Medals for Valor, 36 Army Commendation Medals for Valor and 27 Purple Hearts.
The Silver Star is the third-highest military decoration for valor and is given for gallantry in action against a U.S. enemy. It is being awarded in seven different actions that took place in Afghanistan from 2011 to 2013.
Those awarded the Silver Stars were:
Staff Sgt. Robert Ashwell; Sgt. 1st Class David Blish; Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Brown; Sgt. 1st Class Jonathan Drew; Warrant Officer Robert Hinsley; Staff Sgt. Nicholas Lavery; Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jason Myers; Master Sgt. Charles Ritter.
According to the Army narratives:
■ Brown was honored for his actions after insurgents took over the Chamki district center on Nov. 10, 2011. The insurgents had killed three Afghan police and taken hostages. Brown led the attack to clear the center and was met with a thrown grenade upon entering one room. Brown caught the explosive in his hand and threw it into a corner of the lobby, also throwing himself over an Afghan officer to shield him from the blast.
■ Myers took part in the same Nov. 10 Chamki action, when he pulled together a U.S.-Afghan team of five to engage the insurgents who were throwing grenades and firing automatic weapons. Myers entered the complex three times to fight barricaded suicide bombers, rescue hostages and clear booby-trapped rooms. He was wounded in the hands, arms, buttocks and legs.
■ Ashwell was recognized for his actions helping extract friendly forces that had been surrounded by the enemy under a hail of heavy enemy gun fire in the Sono Valley on April 6, 2013. He was able to dodge enemy gunfire to rescue a fallen soldier and get him to safety. The gunfire was described as so intense the antenna was shot from Ashwell’s radio.
■ Blish was honored for an Oct. 24, 2012, mission in Wardak Province, where he volunteered for a number of actions to capture enemy guns and weapons and kill at least five of the opposing forces. During the operation and a medical evacuation of his wounded team sergeant that he called in, Blish repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire.
■ Drew was honored for actions on April 11, 2012, when he led a group of Afghan soldiers that had come under attack during a community meeting. An Afghan woman was shot in the chest during the 15-hour attack. Drew administered her first aid, provided cover fire while she was evacuated and repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire in order to protect Afghan civilians, soldiers and government officials while neutralizing 10 to 15 enemy forces.
■ Hinsley was recognized for his actions on March 9, 2013, in which he led a 15-soldier group against an estimated force of 100 insurgents when they were ambushed in a local bazaar. He repeatedly put himself under dangerous enemy fire and retrieved a grenade launcher that allowed his group to fend off the enemy during the several-hour battle.
■ Lavery was recognized for a March 11, 2013, action in Wardak Province when his group of combined U.S. and Afghan forces came under fire from an Afghan police officer firing a truck-mounted machine gun and other forces. Lavery pushed a fellow U.S. soldier standing next to him out of the line of fire and protected him with his own body. Lavery’s femur was shattered and his femoral artery was severed, yet he ignored his wounds and continued directing his fellow soldiers until they were able to move him to safety.
■ Ritter was honored for his actions on May 30, 2013, in Kapisa Province when the Afghan group he was accompanying came under intense enemy fire. He attempted to rescue one of the Afghan soldiers who had been wounded. Despite being wounded three times, Ritter was able to continue leading and organizing the return fire from his small force until it was able to get the injured fighter back to safety.