An American Hero

It is stories like this that make my heart swell. These men step up and serve with such courage and conviction… It is overwhelming. To any who would so foolishly ask, “Why do you support the Troops?” I would have to respond, “Because of the integrity of Soldiers such as Sgt. Marvin Sanjurjo.”

1st Cavalry News

Bronze Star with ‘V’ Device awarded for heroic actions in Al-Hadher

By Sgt. Robert Yde
2nd BCT, 1st Cav. Div. Public Affairs

            FORWARD OPERATING BASE UNION III, Iraq – During a squadron awards ceremony April 29, Sgt. Marvin Sanjurjo, a member of 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment was awarded the Bronze Star with Valor Device for actions he took last year while his unit was conducting operations in Baghdad.

            The Bronze Star Medal, which is the Army’s fourth highest combat medal, is awarded for heroic or meritorious achievement while engaged in action against an enemy of the United States, and the Valor device identifies the award as resulting from an act of combat heroism.

            The incident, for which Sanjurjo, a native of Huntsville, Ala., was awarded the medal, occurred in the fall of 2006 while elements of 5-20th Infantry, which is part of Task Force 1st Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment operating with the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, were patrolling the Al-Hadher neighborhood.

            “Every platoon in the company had been taking contact throughout the day,” explained the company’s top noncommissioned officer, 1st Sgt. Christopher Ward, “and it all basically zeroed in on one mosque.”      

            Ward, originally from Woodland, Calif., said that two of his platoons cordoned off the area around the mosque as they waited for elements from the Iraqi National Police to arrive and clear the mosque. The companies TAC (tactical assault center), which both Ward and Sanjurjo were members, had just returned to Forward Operating Base Falcon, where TF 1-14th Cavalry was based at the time, but once they found out about the mosque entry, they returned to sector to assist in the operation.

            As they approached the cordoned area from the west, their Stryker vehicles were ambushed by what Ward estimated to be 10-15 individuals firing from a two-story house about thirty yards away.           

“My truck and the XO’s (executive officer’s) truck, which Sgt. Sanjurjo was on, were basically in the kill zone,” Ward said. “The fire was pretty intense, and we immediately pivoted in and started to return fire toward the enemy.”

Sanjurjo was manning his vehicles remote weapons system, a system that allows the Soldier to aim and fire the vehicles .50-caliber machine gun from inside without having to expose him to incoming fire.

Ward said that he made the decision to dismount from his vehicle, and that’s when things started to turn bad.

“I dismounted expecting the snipers to come with me,” he explained, “but they were pinned down, and I ended up running across the road, getting shot at before I realized that I was pretty much by myself.”

At about the same time that Ward made the decision to go to the ground, Sanjurjo’s RWS malfunctioned, leaving the Soldiers on the ground with no heavy machine gun support.

“One of the cables had shrapnel in it, and I didn’t know and I couldn’t fire,” Sanjurjo said. “’I’ve got to get this fifty up,’ that’s all I can remember thinking, and Sgt. Young, one of the snipers, started laying fire, and when I got a good chance, I just hopped up top and free-gunned.”

Ward said that he remembers looking back and seeing Sanjurjo on top of the Stryker trying to fix the gun while bullets were pinging off the vehicle’s armor.

“He got the gun up and started suppressing the enemy and soon after that the enemy quit shooting, and we were able to clear the building.”

Ward credits Sanjurjo’s actions that day with saving his life.

“I dismounted expecting people to follow me, and they didn’t and I was by myself, which put me in a pretty tight jam,” he said. “His actions pretty much saved my life that day.”

While Ward credits Sanjurjo with saving his life, Sanjurjo said it was the Soldiers who were firing from the ground that enabled him to climb on top of his vehicle and fire from the uncovered position.

“I was an open target sitting on top of the Stryker,” Sanjurjo said. “I was covering them, and they were covering me.”

            A six-year veteran, Sanjurjo, who has spent his entire career with 5-20th Infantry, said that while he was happy to receive the medal, he wished it his entire company could share the award.

            “If it wasn’t for those guys, I probably would have been shot,” he said. “These are the best guys that I’ve ever worked with and ‘Charlie Rock’ did its job that day.”

Huntsville, Ala., native Sgt. Marvin Sanjurjo talks with the commander of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, Col. Bryan Roberts, after receiving a Bronze Star with “V” Device during an awards ceremony at Forward Operating Base Union III April 29.  Sanjurjo, a member of 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, received the medal for actions taken in Baghdad’s Al- Hadher neighborhood during the fall of 2006. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Robert Yde, 2nd BCT, 1st Cav. Div. Public Affairs)

Huntsville, Ala., native Sgt. Marvin Sanjurjo talks with the commander of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, Col. Bryan Roberts, after receiving a Bronze Star with “V” Device during an awards ceremony at Forward Operating Base Union III April 29.  Sanjurjo, a member of 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, received the medal for actions taken in Baghdad’s Al- Hadher neighborhood during the fall of 2006. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Robert Yde, 2nd BCT, 1st Cav. Div. Public Affairs)
 

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