FORT BRAGG, N.C. — More than 100 medals were awarded to Fort Bragg Green Berets today in a massive ceremony to recognize valor in Afghanistan.
The soldiers, with the 3rd Special Forces Group, were praised for risking their lives over multiple combat tours in recent years.
The medals included eight Silver Stars, 27 Bronze Stars for valor, 36 Army Commendation Medals for valor and 27 Purple Hearts.
"What you've seen here is really unique," said Col. Patrick Roberson, group commander, during the ceremony.
As the war in Afghanistan winds down, Roberson said mass ceremonies such as today's would be more and more rare.
But, he said, heroics like those recounted today continue to happen.
"It's not ancient history," Roberson said, referring to the stories of soldiers risking their own lives to save U.S. and Afghan soldiers.
The soldiers weren't just in the right place at the right time, Roberson said. He said they "willfully reacted and fully committed themselves to a fight. They were determined to succeed."
One of the Silver Star recipients, Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Brown, was recognized for catching a grenade and throwing it away from his comrades, then covering an Afghan soldier to protect him from the blast.
Staff Sgt. Nicholas C. Lavery pushed another soldier out of the way of an insider attack at an Afghan outpost, then shouted directions to his soldiers despite being seriously wounded.
Roberson said many of the soldiers who were recognized with the 103 medals - many soldiers earned several apiece - would be back in Afghanistan within weeks.
The 3rd Special Forces Group has carried the biggest load of fighting in Afghanistan since the war's start, officials said, with local Green Berets almost constantly deployed to the country.
Lt. Gen. Charles T. Cleveland, commanding general of U.S. Army Special Operations Command, said he was humbled and honored to pin the awards on the Green Berets.
He said Americans were grateful for the service, "regardless of political affiliation, beliefs or thoughts."
Cleveland said the nation's Special Forces continues to raise the bar for valor in combat and said the soldiers honored today give "hope to every American and pause to our enemies."
"Where did we get such men and where would we be without them?" Cleveland asked. ".The men we honor today represent the best of all who serve this great nation."
In addition to Brown and Lavery, Silver Star medal recipients were Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jason W. Myers, Sgt. 1st Class Jonathan B. Drew, Sgt. 1st Class David A. Blish, Warrant Officer Robert A. Hinsley, Staff Sgt. Robert B. Ashwell and Master Sgt. Charles P. Ritter.
Myers and Ritter also received Purple Heart medals for being injured in Afghanistan. Brown also received an Army Commendation Medal for valor and two Purple Hearts, and Lavery also received a Bronze Star for valor and three Purple Hearts.
Roberson said the valor displayed by the soldiers in Afghanistan was due, in part, to their rigorous training.
"The training kicks in," he said. "We don't even think about it, we just act."