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Erik Burgess, Published January 11 2013

ND man earns military's top honor for heroics in 2009 battle in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON – In one month, a Minot, N.D., man will become only the fourth living service member from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to be awarded the nation’s highest military decoration.

On Feb. 11, President Barack Obama will bestow the prestigious Medal of Honor on Clinton Romesha, a former active duty Army staff sergeant, for “courageous actions” in Afghanistan in 2009.

Romesha, 31, is being awarded the medal for his actions while serving as a section leader during combat operations against an armed enemy at Combat Outpost Keating in Afghanistan’s Nuristan Province, according to a White House press release.

This makes Romesha only the 11th service member of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to be awarded the medal, according to an ABC news report. Seven of the 11 have been awarded posthumously.

Romesha left the Army in April 2011 after nearly 12 years of service. He lives in in Minot with his wife, Tamara, and three children. A message left at a number listed for his wife late Friday evening was not immediately returned.

Combat Outpost Keating was a small base in Afghanistan located at the bottom of a valley, surrounded by steep mountain ridges, ABC News reports. Plans to shut the base down had been delayed for months. That’s when an attack was launched on the site by 300 Taliban fighters on Oct. 3, 2009.

ABC News reports:

Even after being hit by shrapnel from a rocket propelled grenade, Romesha fought back and took down an enemy machine gun. Leading a five man team, he fought back Taliban attackers who had breached the perimeter of the base.

All the while, Romesha maintained radio contact with the base and helped direct air support over a crowd of attackers. After providing cover fire, allowing wounded comrades to escape, Romesha lead his team for 100 meters, under enemy fire, to recover the bodies of fallen comrades.

“With complete disregard for his own safety, Staff Sergeant Romesha continually exposed himself to heavy enemy fire, as he moved confidently about the battlefield engaging and destroying multiple enemy targets,” says the citation that accompanies his award, as reported by ABC News.

The citation continues: “His extraordinary efforts gave Bravo Troop the opportunity to regroup, reorganize and prepare for the counterattack that allowed the Troop to account for its personnel and secure Combat Outpost Keating.”

The Taliban attack left eight American soldiers dead and 22 wounded, and after the attack, the outpost was finally closed down, ABC News reports.

Romesha enlisted in the Army in September 1999. He has been deployed to Kosovo and served a combat tour in Iraq, according to a White House press release.

He has numerous other medals and decorations, including the Bronze Star Medal, three Army Commendation Medals and the Purple Heart.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Erik Burgess at (701) 241-5518

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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