Ryan M. Pitts

Medal of Honor Induction Ceremony - Hall of Heroes Address

delivered 22 July 2014

I have seen so much valor displayed by my Brothers that I could not even begin to scratch the surface in the short time I have today. Rather, I will spend a lifetime telling their stories and honor their heroic deeds.

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[AUTHENTICITY CERTIFIED: Text version below transcribed directly from audio]

  Deputy Defense Secretary Work, Secretary McHugh, General Odierno, Sergeant Major Chandler, Members of Congress, distinguished DOD Civilian Guests, General and Flag Officers, Brothers and Sisters in Arms, Gold Star Families, my family, ladies and gentlemen, and my fellow Medal of Honor recipients, good morning; and my lovely wife, Amy, I want to thank you for all your support; you're an amazing mom, wife, and woman. I love you.

I stand here in awe of the men I served with. Many of them are here today. It was the honor of my life to answer the call and serve our country alongside the men of Chosen Company, The Rock, and all its servicemembers.

There were many factors that brought us together and motivated us to fight. For me, it was my love for our country and dedication to my Brothers. In my combat experience, the latter is the one guiding principle that carries us through battle. It was the men to our left and right that compelled us to fight with everything we had. There was an absolute duty to be your "Brother's keeper" -- a sentiment that I think we all shared.

My favorite quote that embodied our dedication is ironically captured in a brief passage from Steven Pressfield's The Afghan Campaign. It reads:

Of one thing I'm certain: I will die before I let harm come to him. The shaft that impels him must first pass through my flesh.

I saw the greatest men I've ever known personify this passage, men who placed themselves between us and the enemy to protect and defend their Brothers. Are fallen exemplify this most greatly as they fought to their last breaths to ensure the rest of us could return home. They're the real heroes and it is their names you should know:

Specialist Sergio Abad

  Corporal Jonathan Ayers

Corporal Jason Bogar

First Lieutenant Jonathan Brostrom

Sergeant Israel Garcia

Corporal Jason Hovater

Corporal Matthew Phillips

Corporal Pruitt Rainey

And Corporal Gunnar Zwilling

These men, and so many others, displayed extraordinary acts of valor that day. No one -- No one man carried the fight. We did it together.

[Sgt. Hector] Chavez was shot through both legs, helping pull a mortally wounded Abad to cover.

[Spc. Aaron] Davis, [Pfc. William] Krupa, [Spc. William] Hamby, [Cpt. Matthew] Myer, [Spc. Reid] Grapes, and [Sgt. Mike] Santiago manned critically important weapons systems that were heavily targeted by the enemy.

Many men, including [Spc. Jacob] Sones and Myer, exposed themselves to direct enemy fire to reload these weapons systems that were so important to our defense.

One man picked up an unexploded missile that landed in a fighting position after being ejected from a destroyed vehicle. He ran the missile into the open so soldiers could continue to occupy the position, in the process exposing himself to direct enemy fire.

[Spc. Michael] Denton stood and returned fire despite being wounded in both legs and his dominant right hand because he had to continue fighting.

Bogar returned fire, stopping only to apply medical aid to me and others before returning to the fight.

In the beginning moments of the fight, Matt Phillips immediately returned fire and through a hand grenade to engage the enemy and repel their assault.

Ayers was heavily targeted while continuously firing his machine gun in the face of an overwhelming volume of enemy fire, despite already being struck in the helmet by an enemy round.

Lieutenant Brostrom and Hovater braved withering enemy fire covering more than 100 meters to help reinforce and defend "OP Topside."

Rainey helped manage the fight at OP Topside distributing ammo and shifting weapons systems.

In the second wave of reinforcements -- [SSG Sean] Samaroo, Garcia, Denton, and Sones -- maneuvered to save my life and depend -- defend OP Topside, where four paratroopers had been wounded, and where Ayers, Bogar, Lieutenant Brostrom, Hovater, Phillips, Rainey, and Zwilling had given their lives in our defense. They came to help me despite the danger to their own lives.

Saving my life cost Garcia his own.

You must ask yourself, "How did these men do it?" Or, "What compelled them to take these actions?" Again we return to our dedication to our Brothers. We were a family whose bonds were forged in the fires of combat. Our Brothers lives were more important than our own. If there were in a fight, then we wanted to be there. They would never stand alone.

I have seen so much valor displayed by my Brothers that I could not even begin to scratch the surface in the short time I have today. Rather, I will spend a lifetime telling their stories to honor their heroic deeds. This is a responsibility that accompanies the Award, a responsibility that has been easier to accept knowing that the Award belongs to every man I fought alongside.

While the Medal of Honor is awarded to an individual, it is felt like anything but an individual achievement. It is ours -- not mine.

I will wear it for everyone there that day, especially those we couldn't bring home. The Medal represents our sacrifices, and those of every service member, and will ever -- forever serve as a memorial to the fallen. I will never view myself as a "recipient," but always as a caretaker.

The word "hero" often accompanies the Award. I don't care for the term -- I never have. It is a distinction I have always felt was -- was reserved for those that make the ultimate sacrifice. However, I am humbled and honored to look at my Brothers and see men I consider my personal heroes -- men I look up to.

To every man who fought that day, every man who came to our aid, every leader and peer I ever had, it has been the honor of my life to serve and fight alongside you and all the Brothers we lost. My family and I cannot thank you enough for all you have done for me and our country.

I owe you a debt a can never repay.

I honor you: Please stand and be recognized.

To the families and loved ones of Sergio Abad, Jonathan Ayers, Jason Bogar, Jonathan Brostrom, Israel Garcia, Jason Hovater, Matthew Phillips, Pruitt Rainey, and Gunnar Zwilling: I've thought about them and their sacrifices every day. I will for the rest of my life -- and I'm not alone. You raised, molded, and loved incredible men.

Many of the men present in this room are here because of their actions, actions that changed the -- the course of history for us, actions that gave the rest of us a second chance.

My son, Lucas, exists because of them, as do many other men's children. I promise that my son will grow up appreciating the sacrifices of men he never knew.

I miss them dearly; but it is awe-inspiring that such men lived.

They were professionals. They were warriors.

Thank you, Chosen Few, The Rock.

See Also: Media rich, narrative and logistical account of the battle of Wanat

See Especially:: General Douglas MacArthur's "Duty, Honor, Country"

Also in this database: Barack Obama Medal of Honor Presentation Speech

Audio, Image #1 (SSG Pitts) Source: http://www.dvidshub.net/

Image #2 Source (Medal of Honor): Wikipedia.org

Image #3 (Chosen "Few" Company) Source: http://www.army.mil

Images #4-#12 (Chosen Company Fallen) Source: http://www.army.mil

Audio Note: AR-XE = American Rhetoric Extreme Enhancement

U.S Copyright Status: Text and Images #3-#12 = Uncertain. Images #1 and #2 and Audio = Public domain.

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