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Marine from Beaufort awarded Bronze Star

Beaufort, S.C. — A Beaufort-born Marine was awarded the Bronze Star on Tuesday for meritorious service in Afghanistan.

Maj. Mark Giese was presented the medal during a ceremony at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, where he is stationed.

Giese was surprised and humbled by the award.

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"I owe my success to the individuals that served with me," he wrote in an email Tuesday. "I know of friends, colleagues, Marines and soldiers that have received no more than a Purple Heart and a burial. I am blessed to have returned home to my family in one piece, and that was enough of an award."

Giese served as chief engineer for Coalition Forces based in Kabul from December 2011 to June of this year, providing support to 2,000 military personnel participating in a NATO-led mission to rebuild the country and train Afghan National Security Forces.

Giese earned the medal for his ingenuity and quick work in preventing record snowfall last winter from crippling the coalition headquarters.

Shortly after Giese's arrival, the base was hit with the worst cold snap and heaviest snowfalls the Afghan capital had seen in at least 50 years, according to the Corps.

About 20 inches alone fell in 24 hours, causing blackouts and icy roads. The Kabul airport was closed for two days, along with the Salang Pass -- a major route through the Hindu Kush mountains that connects Kabul to the northern part of the country.

"Despite being undermanned and under-equipped," Giese came up with innovative ways to clear and remove snow, "without any loss of critical command-and-control" equipment, which could have severely hindered the war effort, according to the citation accompanying the award.

Giese also secured funding to purchase four generators for the "grossly underpowered" base, where energy was rationed to avoid blackouts and maintain power to vital systems.

Giese, 49, was born at Naval Hospital Beaufort. His parents, Henry and Helen Giese, live in Burton. His brother is a civilian employee at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort.

His father, a retired Marine master sergeant, earned a Purple Heart after being injured by an anti-tank mine during the Korean War. He also served in Vietnam and was a drill instructor at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island.

"It's great. That's all I can say," Henry Giese said Tuesday. "He's a good son, and we can't be prouder of him."

The Bronze Star is the fourth-highest combat decoration, and the ninth-highest U.S. military award. The medal is awarded for acts of valor and merit or meritorious service in a combat zone, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.

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