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Obama awards Medal of Honor to Afghan battle hero Clinton Romesha

Shot in the arm, his base overrun, comrades dead or wounded, Army Staff Sergeant Clint Romesha rallies the survivors to beat back the Taliban and today received the nation's highest military honor.

President Obama awarded the Medal of Honor to celebrated Army veteran Clinton Romesha on Monday afternoon, making the former active duty staff sergeant just the fourth living person to receive the military’s highest honor for service in Iraq or Afghanistan.


Romesha, 31, fought back tears as Obama presented him with the medal honoring his “conspicuous gallantry” during the Battle of Kamdesh, a day-long firefight at a remote Afghan outpost near the Pakistan border in 2009.

“These men were outnumbered, outgunned, and almost overrun,” Obama said in his remarks in the White House East Room. 


Romesha was recognized for leading the charge against hundreds of Taliban fighters during an Oct. 3, 2009, siege on U.S. troops at Combat Outpost Keating, a small compound military officials considered indefensible. 

Eight American soldiers were killed and 20 were wounded in the surprise attack, making it the deadliest day for the U.S. in the war effort that year.

Romesha headed up efforts to retake the camp, risking his own life as U.S. troops were besieged by rocket-propelled grenades, machine guns, mortars and rifles.

Romesha, who served twice in Iraq, first took out a machine-gun team and then turned to a second, suffering shrapnel wounds when a grenade struck a generator he was using for cover.

Former Staff Sgt. Clinton Romesha is presented with the Medal of Honor by President Barack Obama at the White House on Monday.

An official citation read at the ceremony described Romesha’s subsequent acts of valor.

"Undeterred by his injuries, Staff Sergeant Romesha continued to fight and upon the arrival of another soldier to aid him and the assistant gunner, he again rushed through the exposed avenue to assemble additional soldiers," the citation says.

“With complete disregard for his own safety, (he) continually exposed himself to heavy enemy fire as he moved confidently about the battlefield engaging and destroying multiple enemy targets.”

Previously reported: "He's always been a good kid." 

All the while, Romesha devised a strategy to secure key points of the battlefield and directed air support to eliminate a band of thirty heavily armed enemy combatants.

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Romesha and his team also provided cover so three injured soldiers could make their way to an aid station. They then “pushed forward 100 meters under withering fire to recover the bodies of their fallen comrades,” according to the citation.

Romesha, a father of three and the son of a Vietnam veteran, reportedly never lost his composure during the chaotic attack, according to CNN journalist Jake Tapper, who chronicled the battle in the 2012 book "The Outpost."

'Clint is a pretty humble guy'
During his remarks, Obama recognized the lives of the eight soldiers who died at the Battle of Kamdesh, asking the parents of the fallen seated in the back of the room to stand for applause. 

But the heart of Obama's speech centered on a visibly emotional Romesha, who appeared to be fighting back tears as he looked ahead at his wife, Tammy, and three young children.

Colin Romesha, the young son of Medal of Honor recipient Clinton Romesha, finds time to explore the White house while attending a ceremony for his father on Monday.

"Clint is a pretty humble guy," Obama said. "The thing he looks forward to the most is just being a husband and a father."

Romesha is slated to be a guest of first lady Michelle Obama at the State of the Union address on Tuesday, CNN reported.

At a January news conference shortly after Obama called to inform him that he would receive the Medal of Honor, Romesha put the attention squarely on wounded friends and fallen comrades.

"I've had buddies that have lost eyesight and lost limbs," Romesha said. "I would rather give them all the credit they deserve for sacrificing so much. For me it was nothing, really. I got a little peppered, that was it."

Romesha, whom Tapper describes in his book as "an intense guy, short and wiry," lives in Minot, N.D., and works at KS Industries, an oil field construction firm.

A total of ten U.S. service members have been awarded the military's highest honor for actions in Afghanistan and Iraq, including six men who received the honor posthumously. 

The Medal of Honor is bestowed on members of the U.S. Armed Forces who display what the Army calls "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty."