WASHINGTON, (UPI) — President Obama awarded the Medal of Honor Monday to a heroic Army veteran who led an Alamo-like defense of an outpost against 300 Taliban in Afghanistan.
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Clinton Romesha was recognized for leading the charge against the Taliban insurgents trying to capture the outpost housing 53 U.S. troops near the Pakistan border Oct. 3, 2009.
Eight American soldiers were killed and 27 were wounded in the attack at Combat Outpost Keating. Romesha was a section leader with Bravo Troop, 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division in Afghanistan.
“Clint, this is our nation’s military decoration,” Obama said during the ceremony honoring the fourth living recipient to be awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan. “It reflects the gratitude of our entire country.”
Taliban fighters attacked the outpost from the mountainsides above and Romesha led efforts to beat back the Taliban after some of its fighters penetrated the camp’s perimeter.
The outpost was at the bottom of a valley, Obama said, noting an investigation determined the terrain “gave ideal cover for insurgents to attack.”
The investigation also found Camp Outpost Keating “was tactically indefensible,” the president said. “But that’s what these soldiers were asked to do, defend the indefensible.”
Enemy fire rained down on the outpost in what has been described “as one of the most intense battles of the entire war in Afghanistan,” Obama said.
Shrapnel from a rocket-propelled grenade hit Romesha but he kept fighting.
The Americans pulled back to buildings easier to defend for one last stand that one soldier later “compared to the Alamo,” Obama said. When it seemed that Keating was going to be overrun is when Romesha decided to re-take the camp and the Americans began pushing back.
“By now, most of the camp was on fire,” the president said. “Amid the flames and smoke, Clint stood in the doorway calling in airstrikes that shook the earth all around them.”
When he and others heard soldiers were trapped in a vehicle, they rescued them, Obama said. They rushed through enemy fire to retrieve the bodies of their dead comrades elsewhere in the outpost.
“These men were outnumbered, outgunned and almost overrun,” Obama said.
“What was it that turned the tide that day? How was it that so few Americans prevailed against so many?,” Obama said.
“I’ll leave you with the words of Clint himself, because they say something about our Army and they say something about America. They say something about our spirit, which will never be broken,” Obama said. “‘We weren’t going to be beat that day,’ Clint said. ‘We’re not going to back down in the face of adversity like that. We were just going to win, plain and simple.'”
Obama also recognized the eight soldiers who died defending the outpost.
He noted that 37 Army Commendation medals, 27 Purple Hearts,18 Bronze Stars and nine Silver Stars were awarded to the men who fought at Keating outpost.