Marine’s award being upgraded to Navy Cross for leading charge that killed 10 insurgents in Iraq

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus is upgrading valor awards following an almost yearlong review directed by Secretary of Defense Ash Carter.

Carter mandated the review in January 2016, ordering an in-depth analysis of combat valor awards issued since Sept. 11, 2001, expressing concern that troops may not have been appropriately recognized for their heroism in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

On Nov. 15, 2016, the Navy completed its review of more than 300 valor awards, a Navy official said. More upgraded awards for Navy personnel could be forthcoming in the next few weeks, according to officials.

Mabus will upgrade one Marine’s Silver Star to the Navy Cross. Three other Marines and the sailor will be presented with the Silver Star, raised from Bronze Stars with combat “V” devices, for acts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The ceremony is scheduled for Friday morning at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in North Carolina.

Marine Sgt. Michael Mendoza is scheduled to receive the Navy Cross Friday after initially being awarded the Silver Star for his heroism with the Marine’s 1st Reconnaissance Battalion in Iraq.

“On 7 April 2004, Sergeant Mendoza’s platoon was patrolling in the Al Anbar Province when ambushed by the enemy in well-fortified positions. After a rocket-propelled grenade disabled his vehicle, Sergeant Mendoza organized and led five Marines in a charge across an open field, up a 10 foot berm, and across a deep and muddy canal to firing positions within hand grenade range of the enemy. The vigor of this first assault eliminated 10 insurgents, while forcing others to retreat. Observing that injured Marines were still under fire in the enemy zone, he continued the assault with complete disregard for his own personal safety. During this assault, his commander fell wounded at his side from an enemy combatant concealed in a nearby trench line who Sergeant Mendoza decisively engaged and neutralized. Unwilling to subject his comrades to further danger, he knelt in the open and signaled Marines to remain where they were while another attended to a wounded officer. Avoiding rocket and machine gun fire directed at him, Sergeant Mendoza held his position until an armored vehicle arrived to evacuate the wounded officer. By his bold leadership, wise judgment, and complete dedication to duty, Sergeant Mendoza reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.”

Navy Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Michael Atkinson is scheduled to receive the Silver Star for his actions April 4, 2003, in Iraq. According to his award citation, Atkinson defied enemy fire on four separate occasions to treat severely wounded Marines and carry them to safety.

Marine Lance Cpl. Edward Huth is scheduled the Silver Star for helping to save two other Marines July 27, 2010, in Marjah, Afghanistan. According to his his award citation, that despite being shot in the arm, Huth continued to fire his machine gun … suppressing the enemy.

Huth broke away from medical treatment for his arm when he saw another Marine get hit by enemy fire. Huth then moved the other Marine to safety, according to the award citation. As Huth and another Marine were loading the wounded Marine onto the rescue aircraft, the second Marine was shot. Huth was able to load both Marines onto the aircraft himself.

Marine Sgt. Nicholas Brandau is scheduled to receive the Silver Star for leading his squad through 23 powerful direct-fire engagements from June 22 to June 27, 2012, in Afghanistan. According to his award citation, when Brandau’s squad landed in an enemy stronghold, Brandau provided suppressing fire that allowed his Marines to get to cover

Subsequently, he climbed to a roof on his patrol base to throw grenades at the enemy. When a Marine was wounded outside the base, Brandau and a litter team sprinted 200 meters through enemy fire to rescue the wounded Marine.

Marine Staff Sgt. Steven Davis is scheduled to receive the Silver Star for helping to save a wounded Marine in Fallujah on Nov. 9, 2004.

According to his award citation, Davis’ platoon was escorting ambulances carrying casualties from the heart of Fallujah when the lead vehicles came under direct fire.

One Marine got out of his vehicle and was shot. Davis ran 40 meters through a “hail of enemy fire” to help move the Marine to safety, according to his award citation.

When the other Marine was shot in the leg and collapsed, Davis dragged him to a small rock pile where Davis himself was hit. Unable to move any further, Davis used his body to shield the Marine from the intense, enemy fire.

“It is appropriate that today we recognize these individuals for their outstanding actions in the face of incredible danger,” Mabus said Wednesday in a released statement. “It is also appropriate, that by honoring these five men, we honor the rest of you who fought beside them, and those who are still in the fight. This generation of Marines and sailors, like the generations who have come before them, are an extraordinary group of men and women who have given so much to our country, so much to all of us. You are the lifeblood, the legacy, and the history that is the United States Marine Corps.”

As part of the review, Mabus has recommended two other Navy Cross recipients be upgraded to the Medal of Honor, said Mabus’ spokesman Navy Capt. Patrick McNally, who declined to identify the two recipients.

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  • Jim Verchio is a staff writer for Popular Military. As a retired Air Force Public Affairs craftsman, Jim has served at all levels. From staff writer to Editor-In-Chief, he has more than 30 years experience covering military topics in print and broadcast from the CONUS to Afghanistan. He is also a two time recipient of the DoD’s prestigious Thomas Jefferson Award for journalism excellence.

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