“I didn't do anything special. Everyone on my left and right would have done the same thing. I was just in the right place at the right time.'' - Lance Corporal Richard Weinmaster
Photo courtesy of the United States Marine Corps
ArmyWifeToddlerMom (A-Dub) sends this article about a nineteen year old Marine (now 20) who nearly died saving his squad...
Cozad Marine honored for valor
BY HENRY J. CORDES
WORLD-HERALD STAFF WRITER
In the heat of an ambush in Afghanistan's most lawless province, a 19-year-old Nebraskan jumped in front of a grenade to shield other Marines in his platoon.
Richard Weinmaster was critically wounded by the blast. But the bloodied Cozad native stayed in the fight, firing his machine gun at the enemy position until he collapsed from his wounds.
Looking back at the July 8, 2008, engagement, Weinmaster says he was “just doing my job.''
But his bosses in the Marine Corps — and the Secretary of the Navy — felt otherwise.
On Thursday, they awarded the now 20-year-old Weinmaster with the Navy Cross, second only to the Medal of Honor for recognition of bravery in combat.
“By his outstanding display of decisive action, unlimited courage in the face of extreme danger, and total dedication to duty, Private First Class Weinmaster reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service,'' reads the citation, signed by Navy Secretary Ray Mabus.
Weinmaster's family, including parents Jim and Karen Weinmaster of Cozad, were on hand at the Marine Corps base in Twentynine Palms, Calif., for the presentation of the medal and Weinmaster's promotion to lance corporal.
And their pride was shared back in Cozad, where Weinmaster graduated from high school before enlisting in 2007.
“You will never meet a quieter, nicer, more courteous young man,'' said Tim Hansen, Weinmaster's high school counselor. “This is the feel-good deal of the year for us.''
Last year, Weinmaster and other members of the 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment were serving in Helmand Province, a deadly part of southern Afghanistan that has long been a stronghold of the Taliban. It was Weinmaster's first deployment, and he'd been on the ground about two and a half months.
Weinmaster was on patrol July 8 with 3rd Platoon, Company E, walking out in front with his automatic weapon.
They were making their way through an 8-foot wide alley bordered by 10-foot mud-brick walls on both sides. It had been dubbed “ambush alley''— for good reason, as they suddenly found. The patrol was attacked with small-arms fire and grenades.
Weinmaster fired back until he noticed an incoming grenade land near his team leader, Lance Cpl. Travis Wilkerson.
Wilkerson says Weinmaster shoved him out of the way and jumped toward the grenade to try to smother the blast. It exploded while Weinmaster was in mid-air, and he took the brunt of the shrapnel.
Wilkerson and other Marines were uninjured. But Weinmaster received numerous shrapnel wounds to his body and head, including a shrapnel piece that went through his eye socket into his brain.
Despite his injuries, Weinmaster again took up his machine gun and resumed fire on the enemy position 50 yards away. The Marines say his fire forced the enemy to break contact, and Weinmaster ultimately collapsed from his wounds.
Weinmaster suffered severe injuries to his head, legs and abdomen and was airlifted to the United States. Hansen said there was initially much uncertainty that Weinmaster would survive.
But after months of recuperation, he recovered. He still has a piece of shrapnel lodged in his brain.
During his recuperation, he spent several weeks in Cozad visiting family, friends and former teachers, and local officials held a big reception for him. He eventually was able to return to his unit at Twentynine Palms.
And after months of review at the Navy's highest levels, he was honored Thursday for his valor. Major Gen. Richard Mills, commanding general of the 1st Marine Division pinned the Navy Cross on his chest.
After the ceremony, scores of Marines and former Marines thanked Weinmaster. Weinmaster was smiling but remained humble about it all.
“I didn't do anything special,'' he said. “Everyone on my left and right would have done the same thing. I was just in the right place at the right time.''
The full citation for the Navy Cross and a video of the ceremony are after the Jump.
THE SECRETARY OF THE NAVY
The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the NAVY CROSS to
PRIVATE FIRST CLASS RICHARD S. WEINMASTER
UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS
for service as set forth in the following
For extraordinary heroism while serving as Automatic Rifleman, 3d Platoon, Company E, 2d Battalion, 7th Marines, Marine Corps Forces, Central Command (Forward) in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM on 8 July 2008. Private First Class Weinmaster’s squad was conducting a dismounted patrol down a narrow side street in the Sangin District of Helmand Province, Afghanistan, when enemy forces ambushed the squad with medium machine gun fire and hand grenades. Upon contact, Private First Class Weinmaster immediately began engaging the enemy positions with his squad automatic weapon. As he delivered suppressive fire and assaulted the enemy, encountering a withering volume of fire that passed within meters of his position, Private First Class Weinmaster saw two hand grenades tossed over a wall land in the middle of his patrol. Noting where the grenades landed, he quickly placed himself between the grenade and his fire team leader, using his body to shield both his team leader and several other Marines from the blast, which occurred immediately. Private First Class Weinmaster was seriously injured when the grenade detonated, but his valorous actions prevented his fire team leader from receiving any shrapnel. Although he was critically wounded, Private First Class Weinmaster continued to carry on the attack, engaging enemy forces with accurate weapons fire and forcing them to break contact, until he collapsed from the gravity of his wounds. By his outstanding display of decisive action, unlimited courage in the face of extreme danger, and total dedication to duty, Private First Class Weinmaster reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.
For the President,
Secretary of the Navy
And from DVIDS is the b-roll of the ceremony shot by Lance Cpls. Ricky Holt and Brennan Baum.