It was Aug. 10, 2009, when Sgt. Adam Holroyd and his fellow 10th Mountain Division soldiers came under a coordinated enemy attack in Nuristan Province, Afghanistan.
Soldiers from the “Chosin Battalion” 1st Batt., 32nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, had been tasked to air assault into the district center of northern Nuristan, “Barg-e Matal.”
Throughout the coming months, they would fight in cornrows, inside wood huts and beyond, extending the fight to the nearby mountains outside the district center, according to an Army release.
“To describe that terrain as anything less than extreme would be an understatement,” said Lt. Col. Scott Horrigan, former 1-32 infantry commander.
Horrigan was recalling those details because on Wednesday, a dozen years after that coordinated attack, Holroyd was awarded the Silver Star Medal for his actions at a small ceremony at the division’s home — Fort Drum, New York.
The now-retired sniper team leader rushed through enemy fields of gunfire during the attack on the battalion headquarters.
Enemy fighters peppered them with small arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades.
Holroyd rushed through the onslaught to evacuate a wounded task force medic. He then guided soldiers around him to repel the attack.
During the battle, the ammunition supply point caught fire. Holroyd moved through enemy gunfire to grab water to put it out, warning others not to help him.
The sergeant then grabbed an M2 machine gun, suppressing enemy positions and drawing their fire from the smoldering ammo storage.
The brief relief let soldiers move back to the compound, supporting the unit’s defense against the attack. The battalion was able to maintain their position and end the attack.
“Sgt. Holroyd helped teach me this lesson and helped fuse that as part of my professional DNA,” Horrigan said. “Sgt. Holroyd embodies everything that is great about the 10th Mountain Division. He’s a tough soldier, a great leader and he is someone who will absolutely do what is right whenever he is asked.”
After others had shared the official accounts of Holroyd’s actions and the honor that he was to receive, the retired sergeant shared his own thanks, especially to the soldiers he served with more than a decade ago.
“It is to them that we owe our gratitude, not really to me,” he said. “Many of those people are here today, and for that I am so very thankful. Thankful that we still live. This award is and has always been larger than just me. It is a marker in time for the valorous actions executed faithfully by members of the Chosin Battalion.”
Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.