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1st Lt. Jon Wilkins, the executive officer of Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, stands proudly after receiving his Bronze Star Medal at a ceremony at Lance Cpl. Torrey L. Gray Field, Feb. 12.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Monica C. Erickson

OEF vets commended for being 'Ready for all, yielding to none'

12 Feb 2009 | Lance Cpl. Monica C. Erickson

Five Marines and sailors from 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, received Bronze Star Medals in recognition of their heroic actions during their recent deployment to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in a ceremony at Lance Cpl. Torrey L. Gray Field, Feb. 12.

The five Marines and sailors who received the Bronze Star Medals were:

Maj. Urbano Cruz, the commander of Weapons Company, and a Lake Worth, Fla., native.

1st Lt. Jon Wilkins, the executive officer of Weapons Company, and a Torrance, Calif., native.

1st Lt. Charley R. Massey, a platoon commander with Combined Anti-Armor Team 2, and a Richland, Mich., native.

Navy Lt. Robert Benowicz, the medical personnel officer-in-charge for Company E, and a Portland, Ore., native.

Petty Officer 1st Class Wil Morales, a hospital corpsman with Company F, and a Brooklyn, N.Y., native.

Massey and Morales both received a Combat Distinguishing Devices with their Bronze Star Medals to signify their heroism while under enemy fire.

“This is something I never expected to happen,” said Morales, who saved the life of a wounded Battle Group Northwest commander by low-crawling across 30 meters of debris while under fire and dragging the British senior officer back to the safety of his convoy.  “Everyone kept telling us we were going to get recognized, but I never believed what they were saying. I was just doing my job.”

Benowicz also received the medal for saving lives. He was proactive in ensuring the Marines and sailors were medically stable before going on patrol.

He was also recognized for saving the life of a 10-year-old Afghanistan boy who was found with multiple gunshot wounds. Benowicz was able to stabilize the boy before sending him to the hospital where he later recovered from his injuries.

Benowicz said he wished the Marines and sailors they lost during the deployment were alive to be part of the ceremony.

“The hardest part of a deployment is losing Marines and sailors,” Benowicz said.  “They deserved to be here.”

Lt. Col. Richard D. Hall, the battalion’s commanding officer, and Sgt. Maj. Matthew Brookshire, the battalion sergeant major, had the honor of pinning the medals to each service member’s chest.

“We are both glad we were able to give these Marines and sailors their Bronze Stars before he left,” Brookshire said about Hall leaving the battalion. “We thought it would be appropriate since he was deployed with them to Afghanistan.”

Brookshire continued to say he was proud of all the Marines and sailors of his battalion.

“It is always the Marines and sailors of this battalion who rise to the occasion and get the job done,” Brookshire said. “It is truly an honor to be their sergeant major. To me, they are all my heroes.

“They did a spectacular job in Afghanistan, more than what people know and they are finally getting recognized for their heroism.”

After the ceremony, nearly everyone who was present during the ceremony moved forward to congratulate and shake the hands of the five Bronze Star Medal recipients.

The Bronze Star Medal is an individual decoration and is the fourth highest award within the Department of Defense for bravery, heroism or meritorious service.

The battalion is scheduled to hold more ceremonies for Marines and sailors who earned the Silver Star Medal and Navy Crosses for heroism and unwavering dispositions while deployed to Afghanistan.

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