U.S. Army(WASHINGTON) — In the early morning hours on April 6, 2008, Army medic Ronald J. Shurer II was one of the last U.S. Special Forces soldiers to exit a Chinook helicopter and land in the Shok Valley of eastern Afghanistan. There was a moment of quiet as the soldiers began to scale a steep hill – when suddenly everything around Shurer exploded.
According to a U.S. Army narrative of what happened next, Shurer’s unit took heavy fire, including rocket-propelled grenades, small-arms and machine-gun fire. The forward assault team became pinned down and sustained multiple injuries. That’s when Shurer sprang into action. Disregarding his own safety, Shurer sprinted through the fire to reach the forward team and treat the wounded.
Shurer’s heroic actions, moving through heavy gunfire multiple times to provide aid to the wounded, saved the lives of all the U.S. soldiers injured in the battle. In recognition of Shurer’s “conspicuous gallantry,” the White House said in a statement, President Trump will award Shurer the Medal of Honor Monday. Shurer will be the 11th U.S. Army soldier to receive the Medal of Honor for actions in Afghanistan and the 15th overall from that war.
Though the White House and Department of Defense have recognized Shurer’s heroism, he still gives all credit to his fellow teammates.
“This award is not mine. This award wouldn't exist without the team. If they weren't doing their job, I wouldn't have been able to do my job,” Shurer said.
A legacy of service
Shurer grew up no stranger to military service. His grandfather was a World War II veteran. His parents were both airmen, and he spent the first few years of his life moving around the country until his family was stationed at McChord Air Force Base in Washington state, where Shurer went to high school.
Shurer attended Washington State University and was in the middle of a graduate program when the events of September 11, 2001, inspired him to join the Army in 2002.
Two years later, Shurer began the process to become a Green Beret. He deployed twice to Afghanistan before being honorably discharged in 2009.
Shurer still serves his country today, as part of the United States Secret Service Counter Assault Team, which protects the president from possible attacks. Shurer and his wife and two children currently reside in Virginia.
“Unlike anything we’d ever faced before”
During that second deployment to Afghanistan, Shurer was part of Operational Detachment Alpha from the 3rd Special Forces group paired with several dozen Afghan commandos, sent to kill or capture terrorist leaders of the militant group Hezb-e Islami Gulbuddin in Shok Valley.
As militants rained fire down on Shurer’s unit, he heard someone shouting his name. Shurer ran to then-Staff Sgt. Ryan Wallen, a friend who had a shrapnel injury in his neck.
The battle raged on. “We don't go out on a mission where we don't expect to meet some resistance, but this was unlike anything we'd ever faced before,” Shurer said.
In order to reach the pinned down forward team, Shurer fought his way across several hundred meters, killing multiple militants along the way. When he reached the unit, he treated four critically wounded U.S. soldiers and 10 Afghan soldiers.
At one point, a bullet went through one soldier’s arm and struck Shurer’s helmet. “It felt like I’d been hit in the head with a baseball bat,” Shurer said.
Shurer provided aid and helped suppress the enemy fire for five and a half hours. Eventually, Shurer devised a plan to use some nylon webbing to lower the wounded soldiers who could not walk down a near-vertical 60-foot cliff to evacuate them. He shielded the casualties with his own body.
“We used tubular nylon webbing to kind of wrap it around the guy's shoulders and lower them down to the next group. We did it as carefully as we could, to not cause further injury. And then, we just kind of repeated that process down the hill,” Shurer described.
Thanks to Shurer’s actions, all the U.S. soldiers made it out of the battle alive. Two Afghan commandos were killed, including the team’s interpreter, Edris Khan. Shurer’s younger son’s middle name is Edris, in honor of the fallen interpreter.
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