Pace Honors Servicemembers for Heroism
By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sep. 21, 2006 The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recognized five servicemembers here last night for their contributions to the war on terror, calling them the hope for a peaceful future.
“The fight for freedom has been and always will be continual,” Marine Gen. Peter Pace said at the annual Keeper of the Flame dinner at Union Station. “What makes me feel so good about the future of our country is the five individuals standing behind me tonight, because they truly are the future of our country.”
The five servicemembers -- one from each branch of the military -- were honored at the end of the dinner, which is hosted by the Center for Security Policy.
-- Army Sgt. Micheaux Sanders, of Goldsboro, N.C. On April 4, 2004, at 19, then-Spc. Sanders responded with his tank crew to aid a patrol caught in an ambush by insurgents in Iraq. Despite being low on ammunition, Sanders repeatedly exposed himself to danger, firing whatever he could find and eventually throwing rocks at the enemy, all the while ignoring a bullet wound in his arm. For his actions, Sanders was awarded the Silver Star.
-- Marine Capt. Brian Chontosh, of Rochester, N.Y. While serving as a platoon commander in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom on March 25, 2003, Chontosh and his platoon encountered a coordinated ambush in a blocked road. Chontosh single-handedly cleared more than 200 meters of an enemy trench, using his own weapons and discarded enemy weapons to kill more than 20 enemy soldiers and disable many more. For his actions, Chontosh was awarded the Navy Cross.
-- Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Luis Fonseca, of Fayetteville, N.C. During a March 23, 2003, battle in Nasiriyah, Iraq, Fonseca, a hospital corpsman, raced through mortar, rocket-propelled-grenade and small-arms fire, tending to wounded Marines, even carrying a 200-pound injured Marine on his back for more than 200 yards to safety. Fonseca flagged down a vehicle to evacuate his patients and then returned to the fight after briefing battalion aid station personnel. For his actions, Fonseca was awarded the Navy Cross.
-- Air Force Tech. Sgt. Stephen Achey, of Sumter, S.C. While serving as a terminal attack commander and control specialist with an Army infantry unit during Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan, Achey’s team was ambushed by enemy fire. In the attack, Achey’s radio was damaged by a mortar blast. To salvage this vital piece of equipment, Achey ran across the fully exposed battlefield and retrieved the gear amid a hail of enemy fire. Using the radio, Achey was able to coordinate a gunship and fighter attack that destroyed numerous enemy positions and facilitated the evacuation of his wounded comrades. For his actions, Achey was awarded the Silver Star.
-- Coast Guard Lt. j.g. Bradley Middleton, of Davidsonville, Md. In June 2005, Middleton assumed the duties of executive officer for the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Maui, deployed to the Arabian Gulf in support of operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. Over the course of his one-year tour, Middleton spent more than 5,000 hours under way in Iraqi waters and completed more than 100 vessel boardings to ensure the safety of coalition forces off the coast of Iraq. For his service, Middleton was awarded the Coast Guard Commendation Medal with Operational Distinguishing Device.
Speaking earlier at the dinner, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said America is fortunate to have servicemembers like those honored, who volunteer to go into harm’s way and defend the country.
“It’s a wonderful thing that you serve our country, and it’s a wonderful thing that you could be here this evening,” Rumsfeld said to the awardees. “You’ll feel the respect … the people in this audience feel for you and your colleagues.”
Last night’s Keeper of the Flame Award recipient was California Rep. Duncan Hunter, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. The Keeper of the Flame award was created in 1990 by the Center for Security Policy to recognize those who devote their public careers to strengthening the nation’s security, propagating democracy, and respecting individual rights throughout the world.