On July 30, 2008, then-Spc. Gregory Waters was serving as a mortar platoon medic with 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, in eastern Afghanistan. While returning to Forward Operating Base Ghazni from an overnight mission, Waters’ truck hit an improvised explosive device, leaving the occupants injured and unconscious.
The ambush took place at about 10:30 a.m., roughly 15 kilometers from base. The mine resistant ambush protected vehicle Waters was riding in, which served as the lead vehicle in the convoy, was “decimated” by an IED blast that severed the engine compartment and virtually destroyed the road, according to copies of his old and new citations obtained by Army Times.
The blast knocked Waters out. Soldiers in the three vehicles behind the lead truck began to return fire and maneuvered their vehicles to shelter the damaged MRAP as about 30 enemy fighters fired on their position.
Sgt. 1st Class Randy Shorter, the mortar platoon sergeant in one of the other vehicles, sprinted 100 meters through enemy fire and pried open the back door of the MRAP to find Waters and the three other soldiers wounded, but alive. Shorter also received the Silver Star for his actions.
Inside, the vehicle gunner was on his back, his armor plates crushed by the .50-caliber machine gun that fell on him, pinning him to the truck’s floor. Another soldier had a broken arm and a broken nose, and the driver was suffering from a severe back injury. All of the wounded had trouble breathing in the smoky truck.
“Shorter single-handedly carried one soldier 75 meters through enemy fire to a concealed position, then returned under fire again to assist in evacuating another casualty,” his citation reads.
After regaining consciousness, Waters ignored his own injuries and began dragging his comrades from the vehicle while working to engage the enemy fighters. As small arms fire and rocket propelled grenades hit their position, Waters returned fire and administered care to the wounded, still ignoring his own injuries.
“When the helicopters did arrive to evacuate the wounded, Specialist Waters remained behind, not wanting to leave the remaining soldiers without a medic as gunfire was continuing,” his Silver Star citation reads.
Waters stayed behind to direct the loading of other casualties, and "remained in the fight until the enemy fled,” his upgraded citation reads.
“I was a medic, and I did my job taking care of wounded soldiers,” Waters said in an Army Recruiting Command news release. “I would not have changed anything. Someone had to be in that seat; if I wasn’t me, I would be putting someone else in harm’s way.”
Waters is now a sergeant first class working as an Army recruiting station commander in Eastpointe, Michigan.
Maj. Gen. Frank Muth, who leads the Army Recruiting Command, presented the Distinguished Service Cross to Waters on June 5, during a ceremony at Michigan’s Selfridge Air National Guard Base, according to the command.
“People who don’t understand sacrifice or commitment to service may think Sgt. 1st Class Waters was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I believe he was in the right place at the right time,” Muth said in the release.
Waters first enlisted in the Army Reserve in 2003, before transitioning to active duty and moving to Fort Campbell, Kentucky. The son of two Air Force veterans, he left the combat medic career field for recruiting in 2013.
“As a recruiter, I tell worried parents that their child will always have someone to look after them,” he said in the Army release. “If your child doesn’t show up for work, there will be an entire team of soldiers sent out to find them, just like you would do if they didn’t show up for dinner. We are a family, and we take care of our own.”
Kyle Rempfer was an editor and reporter who has covered combat operations, criminal cases, foreign military assistance and training accidents. Before entering journalism, Kyle served in U.S. Air Force Special Tactics and deployed in 2014 to Paktika Province, Afghanistan, and Baghdad, Iraq.