August 16th, 2010
10:03 AM ET

7 Special Forces soldiers get Silver Star for Afghan valor

[Update] Seven soldiers received public recognition for their actions during a Silver Star ceremony at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The Silver Star recipients downplay their heroism when they talked with CNN at the ceremony.

[Original post] It's been clear for months that the fighting in Afghanistan is more intense than it's been since the war there started nearly nine years ago. Yet, from the midst of those increasingly violent firefights come some amazing stories of heroism.

On Monday, seven soldiers will receive public recognition for their actions during a Silver Star ceremony at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

The medals - the third-highest award for valor in the Army - are being awarded for five separate battles over a span of more than two years.

Sgt. 1st Class Antonio Gonzalez and Sgt. 1st Class Mark Roland were part of Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha (SFODA) 732.

On June 11, 2007, their unit was sent to help a group of Afghan soldiers who had been pinned down by an enemy attack. When the unit arrived, they and their fellow soldiers were immediately enveloped in the same ambush by a much larger enemy force.

Even though the enemy was firing from just 10 feet, Roland immediately climbed out of the relative safety of his armored vehicle and started attacking enemy fighters in a nearby wadi, or dry streambed.

He and his fellow soldiers killed two of the enemy and cleared the rest of the wadi of enemy attackers, all while under fire from snipers. Their actions meant the enemy was no longer a threat to his unit's rear flank.

About the same time, Gonzalez saw that four Afghan soldiers were pinned down by enemy fire. He jumped out of his vehicle and ran nearly 40 yards through enemy fire.

"Without regard for his life," the Army account read, "over the course of three trips through enemy fire, he rescued all four soldiers and brought them back to the safety of his armored vehicle." He did it all while under fire from enemy sniper and machine gun fire.

After clearing the wadi and getting back in his vehicle, Roland saw eight Afghan soldiers who were pinned down by enemy machine gun fire. He got out of his vehicle, ran through enemy fire and moved four of the Afghan soldiers back to his vehicle and directed the other four to another armored vehicle.

All told, the actions of Roland and Gonzalez - both of whom had already received the Bronze Star for past battle - and their fellow soldiers defeated the ambush and led to the death of 60 enemy fighters including two Taliban commanders, according to the Army.

Staff Sgts. Mario Pinilla and Daniel Gould also had Bronze Star medals to their name, and Gould had also received the Silver Star for past heroics. They were both serving with Special Operational Detachment Alpha 7134 near Kandahar Airfield in southern Afghanistan.

The two were checking reports of Taliban movements near the village of Faramuz when they were ambushed near a river. Pinilla saw one of his fellow soldiers pinned down by enemy fire and already shot twice. Pinilla grabbed a large machine gun, ran through enemy fire, shooting back the entire time, then dived to the ground to block the enemy fire from his wounded colleague, according to the Army

During a 10-minute firefight, he was shot twice. Eventually, more soldiers showed up to help Pinilla and the other wounded man. The Army account says even though he was wounded, Pinilla didn't stop fighting.

"While his fellow detachment members fought to get to him back to safety, Sergeant Pinilla drew his 9mm Beretta and continued engaging the enemy's ambush line, despite being critically injured," the account reads.

Gould also put his life on the line to save a fellow soldier.

When the Taliban ambushed the unit, he got into an intense half-hour gun battle with the enemy. His helmet was shot off his head, and he was hit once in his body armor.

During the fight, he saw one of his teammates, who was much closer to the enemy, get shot and critically wounded. According to the Army, he used a large machine gun to neutralize the enemy that was the greatest threat to the wounded man, giving a medic a chance to go help the soldier. Then, knowing then man need to be evacuated, Gould joined the medic first in dragging the wounded soldier through nearly 50 yards of enemy fire, and then carrying the wounded man the last 40 yards on his shoulders until they all reached safety.

An enemy unit ambushed Master Sgt. Julio Bocanegra's convoy on August 26, 2008. During the attack in Paktika province, Bocanegra noticed that a group of four Afghan national policemen were pinned down by the enemy, their pickup truck blocking the route for the rest of the unit. According to the Army, Bocanegra jumped out of his vehicle and ran through a hail of fire to reach the Afghan police, all but one of whom was wounded. The Army account spells out how he helped get them to safety.

"Sergeant Bocanegra then disregarded the enemy fire and picked up one of the wounded and placed him into the vehicle which [was] continuing to receive effective fire. Continuing to ignore the danger to his life, Sergeant Bocanegra then picked up a second policeman with multiple gunshot wounds to both legs and placed him into the vehicle," the account said.

Bocanegra, with the help of the one policeman who had not been shot, got the third wounded officer into the Afghan police pickup truck and moved them all to safety. All three Afghan police officers and three soldiers who had been wounded in the fight survived their injuries.

Sgt. 1st Class Jonathan Clouse, an Army veteran, was working with a Marine special operations unit and was walking along a boulder-strewn path when one of his teammates was badly wounded. He immediately provided medical attention to that man. Then, according to the Army, another teammate was wounded.

"SFC Clouse ran through the kill zone to render further medical attention under head machine gun fire that struck the back of his body armor," according to the Army summary of the battle. The second man's life couldn't be saved.

The summary says Clouse continued providing advanced combat first aid amid intense enemy fire.

"Reacting to the calls for assistance from other wounded, SFC Clouse again ran through the kill zone to provide medical assistance," according to the report.

One enemy sniper bullet destroyed Clouse's weapon, but he kept on. All told, Clouse provided medical assistance to four American wounded and one Afghan soldier who'd been wounded in the attack and helped moved them to safety.

Sgt. 1st Class David Nunez was in a convoy of U.S. Special Forces and Afghan national army soldiers traveling through the village of Shewan in Ferah province on May 29, 2008.

As many as 60 insurgents attacked the convoy, disabling Nunez's vehicle with a rocket-propelled grenade. The vehicle started burning, and Nunez was worried that other soldiers were still in the vehicle, according to the Army.

"Without regard for his own life, [Nunez] began to discard ammunition and explosives from the rear of the vehicle in order to ensure others were not injured. During this entire period of time, SFC Nunez was engulfed in flames. Ignoring his wounds and the intense concentration of enemy fire, he continued to assist the convoy pinned in the kill zone until he eventually succumbed to his injuries," the battle account reads.

Nunez's obituary noted that he had already received a Bronze Star, an Army commendation medal and numerous other decorations.

After Monday's ceremony at Fort Bragg, his record will be upgraded to include the Silver Star for "his bravery in keeping with the finest traditions of military heroism and reflect distinct credit upon himself, this command and the United States Army."

soundoff (66 Responses)
  1. jason

    now when they develop PTSD the military will kick them out on a personality disorder so they don't get va compensation or benefits.

    August 17, 2010 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Trev uk

    Thanks to all of the American & British heros fighting for us in Afghanistan. May God bless them All

    August 17, 2010 at 3:39 am | Report abuse |
  3. Die, Illiterates!

    They didn't die for anyone's freedom, they died for big business. They died for nothing.

    August 16, 2010 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ken

      We should have conscription, then you would either have to run to Canada with your tail behind your legs or finally man up for realizing that these soldiers are there for us, regardless of current policy.

      August 16, 2010 at 7:48 pm | Report abuse |
      • Daniel-2

        Will you kindly quit spewing that right-wing bla-bla-bla?It gets old and very corny!

        August 16, 2010 at 8:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Daniel-2

      How right you are,Die,illiterates!Thank you very much for your imput.

      August 16, 2010 at 8:34 pm | Report abuse |
      • ken

        What an idiot you are. Were it not for these soldiers VOLUNTEERING to the military your BUTT would be out there conscripted. THAT is the point i'm making REGARDLESS of current policy. And Yokobi ceased making sense awhile ago so I'm not going to babble about him.

        August 17, 2010 at 2:25 pm | Report abuse |
      • Bledsoe

        ken. Daniel-2 wouldn't be enlisted into the US Military he is a Pakistani who steals other peoples names (14 so far and counting) I stole this one back!

        August 18, 2010 at 4:39 pm | Report abuse |

    Another bimbo bought and paid for by the American Taxpayer.I soppose they think that they can "buy" a military victory in Afghanistan like they did in Iraq.

    August 16, 2010 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Larry Valecia, Calif.US Army Forever...

    It is to bad a Beautiful Young Lady thinks the way She does!!! She should stick with Singing and forget killing!! Because She doesn't have a chance against the Americans... How can They think that They are better trained that Our Military???

    August 16, 2010 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • kurt


      August 16, 2010 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |

      Just like those filthy creeps who operate those Predator Drones.They just don't get any more cowardly than that!!!

      August 16, 2010 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse |

      The abject cowards are those killing men women and children with IED's

      August 17, 2010 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Amrullah Yousafzai, Margalla Hills

    She is Afghan refugee not Pakistani

    August 16, 2010 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Larry Valecia, Calif.US Army Forever...

      How do You know???

      August 16, 2010 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Larry Valecia, Calif.US Army Forever...

    Have You Ever Been around the Globe to Meet With Them??? If So Do You Speak their Language???

    August 16, 2010 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Larry Valecia, Calif.US Army Forever...

    Why do You Children insist on Chatting with Us adults??? Go Play You Childish Games Else where!!!

    August 16, 2010 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Jerry

    The only person who deserves a medal here is Pfc.Bradley Manning!!!

    August 16, 2010 at 3:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Larry Valecia, Calif.US Army Forever...

      Quite true Jerry,quite true if I do say so myself!

      August 16, 2010 at 8:46 pm | Report abuse |

        The medal he deserves would have to weigh about 100lbs and be firmly fixed round his neck as he is thrown out at 10,000 feet.

        August 17, 2010 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • CH101

      Manning deserves nothing of the kind. He deserves a long life in prison. If someone suspect war crimes are happening there are proper channels to go through that dont involve the leaking of classified information that could compromise a person's (or multiple people's in this case) safety. He wasnt doing what he thought was right he was looking for attention. He said the word's himself. "I feel isolated" he wanted to be noticed and he endangered multiple lives by doing it. Regardless of whther or not the files showed any wrong doing. There are lines people must not cross and that was one of them.

      August 17, 2010 at 3:04 am | Report abuse |
      • Larry Valecia, Calif.US Army Forever...

        Talk about war crimes,what about those filthy creeps who operate those ungodly drones,hurling 500lb.bombs on defenseless people?And you have the gall to call Pfc.Bradley Manning a war criminal!What a twisted mind you must have!

        August 17, 2010 at 6:56 am | Report abuse |

        Drones don't "hurl bombs" they drop them very accurately. One day soon you will find out.

        August 17, 2010 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Strider

    And if so... please let me know where...

    August 16, 2010 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Larry Valecia, Calif.US Army Forever...

      How do You know that He can't beat the crap out of You???

      August 16, 2010 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      And that's obvious, you'll stand 'behind' other people while they fight and die for you and your survival. That's why the men in this article are heros, they would die defending you, and have.

      August 17, 2010 at 5:08 am | Report abuse |
  11. Jon

    These troops should be getting Medal of Honor not the Sliver Star.

    August 16, 2010 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Daniel-2

      Why would they need lessons on how to be a free human? do you think they haven't seen enough examples of people living in subjugation.

      August 16, 2010 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • kurt

      no lessions?? our dead in arlington the soldiers that died for our freedon,the vietnam wall.ww2 that was all lessions on freedom it comes with the ultimate price..honor ,valor something you must not know about...

      August 16, 2010 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
  12. gw

    Some of these actions are more worth of a Medal of Honor then just a silver star. Next time you watch a football game take a look at the field and imagine dragging 200lbs across 50 yards of it .......under fire.

    August 16, 2010 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Daniel-2

      Why have you stopped calling?

      August 16, 2010 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Larry Valecia, Calif.US Army Forever...

      I Think Anyone that is fighting in a war deserves to get a Metal!!!

      August 16, 2010 at 4:36 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Noble9

    Gets my adrenaline running just reading about it.

    August 16, 2010 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • dwight huth

      And it turns my stomach upside down!!!!!

      August 16, 2010 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Larry Valecia, Calif.US Army Forever...

      Kurt: this is a Free Country and know one has the right to tell anyone what to say even if You don't like it!!! That is what We fought for in all the Wars...

      August 16, 2010 at 4:42 pm | Report abuse |
      • kurt

        not to be called baby killers..thoes men dont deserve that..LARRY...but yea u right silly people can talk too i guess you take the good with the bad...

        August 16, 2010 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
  14. dwight huth

    See people these are the real heros of the war, not that Traitor Bradlley Manning.

    August 16, 2010 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
    • dwight huth

      Come on Phunnie boy,will you stop spewing all that right-wing bla-bla-bla under my name?You very well know that that's not true!!!

      August 16, 2010 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
      • dwight huth

        Which one is that?

        August 16, 2010 at 4:26 pm | Report abuse |
      • Larry Valecia, Calif.US Army Forever...

        Kurt it is a lot Safer today than it was when Bush was President!!!

        August 16, 2010 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Sharefacts

    Search ""BATTLE FOR KANDAHAR IS ON" on You-tube – TheRealNews – Must Watch

    August 16, 2010 at 10:46 am | Report abuse |
    • Larry Valecia, Calif.US Army Forever...

      Why do You always Repeat Yourself???

      August 16, 2010 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
  16. Sharefacts

    Google: "BATTLE FOR KANDAHAR IS ON" – TheRealNews – Must Watch

    August 16, 2010 at 10:37 am | Report abuse |
    • Larry Valecia, Calif.US Army Forever...


      August 16, 2010 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
      • Larry Valecia, Calif.US Army Forever...

        Will you kindly stop with that right-wing bla-bla-bla,especially under my name,will you?It makes me mad!!!

        August 17, 2010 at 6:50 am | Report abuse |

        You don't have far to go, you had a head start.

        August 17, 2010 at 3:15 pm | Report abuse |