‘It just felt wrong not to pull the trigger’
Lance Cpl. Thomas Adametz, Silver Star
By BEN MURRAY | STARS AND STRIPES Published: June 14, 2005
By the time Lance Cpl. Thomas Adametz darted out of the besieged house full of Marines to man an abandoned machine gun, scores of insurgents were close enough that they could almost drop grenades on the troops.
AK-47 fire rained down from nearby windows and doorways, and insurgents sent rockets sizzling into the Marines’ position.
The more than 30 men from the 2nd Battalion, 1st Regiment of the 1st Marine Division were hemmed into the battered building in Fallujah. Their position was in danger of being overrun. Casualties were mounting.
“All the houses around us were just full of insurgents. They were on the rooftops right next to us,” said Lance Cpl. John Flores, who was wounded in the attack. “They were swarming all in on us.”
The machine gunner, who was dazed by a grenade explosion, dropped his Squad Automatic Weapon, and Adametz made the decision that would eventually earn him the Silver Star “for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action against the enemy,” on April 26, 2004, his award citation reads.
“I knew my 16 wasn’t laying down enough fire,” he said. So he darted into the automatic fire and explosions outside the Marines’ defensive position and grabbed the abandoned SAW, firing it at the attackers until the barrel overheated.
“He just stepped out there and started shooting,” Flores said.
The Marines had been out on a mission to clear a pair of buildings near a new sniper location before the shooting started that morning, Adametz said. It was a quiet morning, with ominous portents of a coming battle.
“‘Something’s not right. Something’s going to happen,’” he remembered thinking. “It was quiet for hours and hours.”
Flores remembers the day beginning the same way, quietly, with, “only a couple of RPGs and a couple of AK rounds or whatever.”
But then, the insurgents sprang their ambush by tossing grenades onto the roof of the Marines’ position, wounding the men there, and suddenly things were no longer quiet.
“I just heard grenades, and people screaming and yelling,” Flores said.
The grenade attack was the catalyst for the assault that would eventually bring the insurgents right to the very doorstep of the Marines’ makeshift bunker.
“They were so close,” Flores said. “They were, like, kicking the door in, trying to come into our house.”
It was in trying to repel that onrush that Adametz burned his hand changing out the melting barrel of his adopted SAW, before ratcheting in a second barrel. When that one seized up, he ditched it, ran inside to get another, then went back out again to continue defending the building.
There was no shortage of targets, he said, recalling enemy fighters arriving “by the truckload and the busload.”
“They just kept on coming,” he said. “It just felt wrong not to pull the trigger that day.”
With nearly half the squad eventually hit in the more-than-five-hour fight, the number of unhurt defenders was shrinking, Adametz said, and he thought he might eventually be overwhelmed by the attackers. His reaction to the notion?
“To be honest? ‘This sucks,’” said the 23-year-old from Winslow, Maine.
But Adametz and the Marines of Company E stayed on their guns until the wounded could be evacuated and the attack subsided, a desperate defense that garnered the men a number of Bronze Star and Silver Star nominations.
“And I can’t even count how many Purple Hearts were awarded that day,” Adametz said.