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Sgt. Sholah Yi speaks during the 16th Military Police Brigade's Asian/Pacific American Celebration in May at Fort Bragg, N.C.(Spc. Jonathan J. Springer)Sgt. Sholah Yi

Unit: 21st Military Police Company, 503rd Battalion, 16th Military Police Brigade

Medal: Bronze Star with "V"

Earned: March 24, 2004, outside Baghdad, Iraq

Sgt. Sholah Yi said his bad luck in Iraq probably was good luck for the Army.

Investigators said the five insurgents who attacked his Humvee — killing his commanding officer and wounding Yi — likely had their sights on an easier, more vulnerable target.

But Yi’s patrol from the 21st Military Police Company out of Fort Bragg disrupted their plans by confronting the insurgents, killing several in an ensuing firefight and likely saving lives of coalition forces.

“We really messed up their ambush, so we kind of got lucky that way,” said Yi, a 24-year-old from California. “Once it was over, we found a lot more ammunition and machine guns in their truck, so they were probably planning a larger attack.”

Yi, who earned a Bronze Star with “V” and a Purple Heart for that incident, previously had spent six months serving in Afghanistan and was scheduled to end his tour just before his unit was to be deployed to Iraq. But he re-enlisted, he said, to help keep his fellow soldiers safe.

“It’s just something I wanted to do,” he said.

He had been driving scout missions for convoys for about two months before the March 24, 2004, firefight. On that day, Yi said, he and two other soldiers were escorting a convoy from the Baghdad International airport when they saw a suspicious vehicle.

His squad leader, Sgt. 1st Class Wentz Shanaberger III, told Yi to pull alongside, then both men got out to investigate the four men in the car. Yi said as soon as Shanaberger reached the vehicle the men began firing.

Shanaberger was killed instantly. Yi said he was wounded on the wrist and thigh as he dived for cover.

“When the first shots rang out, all I thought was ‘Shoot back!’” he said. “But all I had with me was my 9 mm (pistol), so as I fired I went back to the Humvee to get my rifle.”

He took cover behind the vehicle just as a grenade exploded, sending shrapnel into his shoulder and incapacitating his left arm. His gunner suffered a concussion, leaving Yi alone to face the insurgents.

“I grabbed my M-4 and caught one guy as he came around the truck,” he said. “Then I fired the rest of my mag into the car, then went back to look for more ammo.”

Reinforcements from the convoy and a nearby Marine patrol arrived shortly thereafter, and more insurgents began firing from nearby rooftops. The Marines eliminated the disorganized ambush while they rushed the wounded soldiers back to camp.

Yi took several months to recover from his wounds, but he returned to Iraq in September to finish his tour of duty with his company.

“I requested to go back as soon as I could,” he said. “Part of me was still mad about [Shanaberger], and I wanted to get back there. But I also didn’t want to leave the guys there.”


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