SSG Ryan Pitts is an amazing person and an exemplary paratrooper. He is the first to credit others and as disinterested in publicity as anyone you may ever meet. He will be awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions at the Battle of Wanat in the Waygul Valley, Afghanistan 13 July 2008.
Wanat was a victory and should be remembered as one, but the cost was high and that should not be forgotten. The following is a list of the men we lost:
– Jonathan P. Brostrom, 24, of Aiea, Hawaii
– Israel Garcia, 24, of Long Beach, California
– Jonathan R. Ayers, 24, of Snellville, Georgia
– Jason M. Bogar, 25, of Seattle, Washington
– Jason D. Hovater, 24, of Clinton, Tennessee
– Matthew B. Phillips, 27, of Jasper, Georgia
– Pruitt A. Rainey, 22, of Haw River, North Carolina
– Gunnar W. Zwilling, 20, of Florissant, Missouri
– Sergio S. Abad, 21, of Morganfield, Kentucky
There was also some controversy about the battle and I wrote about that for the Washington Times.
The Battle of Wanat, Afghanistan, in July 2008 was a tough pill to swallow. We lost nine men and 27 wounded at a remote outpost in Nuristan province when a platoon from the 2nd Battalion (Airborne) of the 503rd Infantry Regiment was attacked by more than 200 Taliban and al Qaeda fighters as they were constructing a new combat outpost (COP). It was even more painful as the unit was less than two weeks from finishing a brutal 15-month deployment that saw an average of three troops in contact incidents daily.
There have been multiple investigations and reports on the battle, including one that just finished. The interest is understandable, given the loss of life, but it appears that what once was a hunt for lessons to be learned has turned into a search for scapegoats.
Several officers in the 2/503rd chain of command were given potentially career ending letters of reprimand and many members of the unit felt that was wrong. SSG Pitts and SGT Mike Denton decided to speak out and discuss the truth about events leading up to the battle as well as the fight itself. I had the privilege of leading them through that discussion in a one-hour plus episode of the Veteran Defenders of America show with Yankee Mom and Twana Blevins. Ryan and Mike did not want to be on the radio or talk about this at all, but they also did not want good officers punished unfairly so they told the story. It was spellbinding and in the end an amazing tale of bravery and brotherhood. It also helped tip the scales and get the letters of reprimand rescinded. There is some good music etc. at the beginning of the show and Ryan and Mike start about 9:30 into it.
We can best honor those killed and wounded by treating the Battle of Wanat as another in the long and storied history of brave American paratroopers holding their ground against overwhelming odds. Airborne! All the way!