Prior to his passing, Shurer, 41, was undergoing treatment for lung cancer at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, D.C. He said Wednesday that he would soon be taken off a ventilator, an often difficult and sometimes dangerous medical procedure.
“Very upset to write this.... been unconscious for a week. They are going to try and take it out in a couple hours, they can’t tell me if it will work,” Shurer wrote in an Instagram post from his hospital bed, pictured with his wife, Miranda.
Shurer was awarded the Medal of Honor in October 2018 for his actions as a Green Beret medic with 3rd Special Forces Group during the Battle of Shok Valley in northeastern Afghanistan a decade earlier.
“Ron was the embodiment of the Special Forces soldier, a dedicated husband, and a loving father," said 3rd Group commander Col. Nathan Prussian in a statement. "His heroic actions were an inspiration throughout 3rd Special Forces Group, Special Forces Regiment and the U.S. Army. Our condolences go out to his family during this difficult time.”
Shurer, a 2001 graduate of Washington State University, was pursuing a master’s degree when the September 11, 2001 terror attacks prompted him to enlist. Even after leaving the Army, his desire to help others continued.
Shurer last lived in the Washington, D.C. area. He regularly attended events there and in Fayetteville, North Carolina, to help raise funds for the Special Forces Charitable Trust, a charity that offers sustainable support to the families of Green Berets.
“Anytime I reached out to him and asked if he could do something, he always said yes,” said the trust’s executive director, David T. Guernsey, Jr. “He would be very happy to come.”
Shurer’s Medal of Honor was an upgrade from an earlier Silver Star Medal he received for his actions during the April 6, 2008 gun battle in Nuristan’s Shok Valley. A Pentagon review determined Shurer’s actions as part of a team sent to capture or kill several high-ranking members of the Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin militant group warranted the nation’s highest valor award.
“This award is not mine. This award wouldn’t exist without the team,” Shurer said of the Medal of Honor. “If they weren’t doing their job, I wouldn’t have been able to do my job.”
The joint American-Afghan special operations team was dropped by CH-47 helicopters into a valley beneath an insurgent stronghold perched on terrain much more treacherous than initially anticipated during mission planning. The coalition forces came under enemy machine gun, sniper and rocket-propelled grenade fire during their movement, suffering several casualties and trapping them on a mountainside.
Initially pinned at the base of a wadi by enemy fire himself, Shurer received word that the forward assault element was unable to move due to their casualties. He then fought his way up steep terrain to render aid and evacuate the wounded.
Shurer braved a “hail of bullets and began scaling the rock face to get to the casualties,” according to his citation. Shurer fought through several hundred meters under fire, for more than an hour, killing several insurgents as he trudged to his besieged teammates. When he finally arrived, he treated four critically wounded U.S. troops and ten injured Afghan Commandos.
“Despite being hit in the helmet and wounded in the arm by Insurgent sniper fire, he immediately pulled his team sergeant to a covered position, and rendered aid as Insurgent rounds impacted inches from their location,” the citation reads. “Without hesitation, he moved back through heavy Insurgent fire to treat another teammate that suffered a traumatic amputation of his right leg from Insurgent sniper fire.”
Shurer, the only medic tending to the beleaguered forward element, provided medical care for more than five hours as they fought off an estimated 200 insurgents.
For their heroism in battle, 10 members of the team from 3rd Group received the Silver Star. This was the highest number of such awards for a single engagement since the Vietnam war, according to the congressional record from that time.
Shurer left the Army in 2009 and became a special agent with the Secret Service, first being posted to the Phoenix, Arizona office. He relocated with his wife and two sons to the Washington, D.C. area in 2014 to be part of a specialized Secret Service tactical team that defends the president.
“Today, we lost an American Hero: Husband, Father, Son, Medal of Honor Recipient - Special Agent Ronald J. Shurer II,” the Secret Service said on their Twitter account. “From a grateful Nation and Agency — your memory and legacy will live on forever. Rest In Peace.”
Kyle Rempfer is an editor and reporter whose investigations have 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.