MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
A former Combat Center Marine was awarded the Silver Star for valor in Afghanistan during a ceremony on Lance Cpl. Torrey L. Gray Parade Field Dec. 17, 2010.
Sergeant William W. Rollins earned the nation's third-highest award for demonstrating courage under fire in action against the enemy June 19, 2008, while serving as 1st Squad Leader, 2nd Platoon, Company G, 2d Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
During a patrol to the village of Dowlatabad, in Balkh province Afghanistan, Rollins squad was ambushed. His squad was pinned down and could not find a way out. Rollins’ found himself on the far left of the squad and furthest from the fire. After a quick assessment, he seemed to be the only one mobile enough to create a distraction, his only hope to free his Marines from the enemy’s fire and get them to safety. With machine guns and rocket propelled grenades flying at the Marines, Rollins rushed to within 30 meters of the enemy positions, leveled his machine gun and provided suppressive fire, allowing his men to escape the immediate ambush area, according to the award citation.
Once his Marines withdrew, Rollins courageously maneuvered through enemy fire to rejoin his squad where he continued to attack the squad enemy while the squad’s wounded Marines were extracted. Then, with enemy fire still impacting around him, Rollins observed a Marine hit, rushed to his aid and dragged him to safety. Rollins aggressive actions in the face of the enemy drew fire onto his own position and provided his squad the reprieve they needed to maneuver to safety, according to the award citation.
Marines and those closest to him aboard the Combat Center attended the ceremony to honor their brother for his bravery.
“Sergeant Rollins is truly a hero, his actions are incredible and selfless,” said Lt. Col. John M. Reed, battalion commander, 2nd Bn., 7th Marines. His actions on the battlefield place him in the company of many other notable Marines in history.
Reed also noted that Rollins’ actions were taken solely to ensure the safety of his brothers on the battlefield. “The silver star is awarded to anyone who distinguishes himself in extraordinary heroism and gallantry,” Reed added.
Several of his fellow Marines said the medal was well-deserved, that Rollins bravery epitomized the values every Marine, past and present, lives by.
“It doesn’t surprise me that he got it,” said Edgar Figueroa, a former active duty Marine and friend of Rollins. “He’s a very humble guy. He would give you the shirt off his back. He is a normal guy, who got put in an extraordinary situation, did what any Marine or squad leader would do; protect his squad, even if it means his own life. I’m proud of him.”
After the ceremony, Rollins stood proud and humbled as the Silver Star hung from his chest and old friends greeted him with smiles and congratulations.
“I feel extremely honored,” Rollins said. “The only thing going through my head at the time was how can we move to cover safely. This [award] was the last thing on my mind. It is quite an honor, and it’s nice to be back.”
Rollins and his wife, Alexandra, expect a baby girl in February. He plans to enroll in a fire fighter academy in Houston.