On Tuesday, Ryan Pitts of Nashua received an honor that he would rather not have received. Like others who have earned it, he claims not to deserve it, though he does.
Pitts was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions during the July 13, 2008, Battle of Wanat in Afghanistan. His outpost was attacked by 200 Taliban fighters.
He received shrapnel wounds in the legs and arms that were so severe he could barely move. Convinced that he was about to die from his wounds, he crawled to find grenades to throw at the enemy. He had the wherewithal to radio for help, having to whisper because the enemy was close enough that he could hear their conversations. Making himself a visible target, he manned a machine gun and kept the enemy from overrunning the outpost until the help he had called for arrived. All the while, his comrades were dying around him.
Without Pitts’ heroism that night, Observation Post Topside would have fallen. But he wants no recognition. “Valor was everywhere that day, and the real heroes are the nine men who made the ultimate sacrifice so the rest of us could come home,” he said on Tuesday.
Those nine men were Spc. Sergio S. Abad, 21, Cpl. Jonathan R. Ayers, 24, Cpl. Jason M. Bogar, 25, 1st Lt. Jonathan P. Brostrom, 24, Sgt. Israel Garcia, 24, Cpl. Jason D. Hovater, 24, Cpl. Matthew B. Phillips, 27, Cpl. Pruitt A. Rainey, 22, and Cpl. Gunnar W. Zwilling, 20.
Pitts calls them heroes, and he is right. He says they should be remembered, too, and he is right. The United States owes them that. The nation also owes Pitts the honor and recognition he received on Tuesday. His reluctant acceptance, passing the attention to his fallen brothers, was another display of selflessness and character. The country could do with more men like this.