CAMP SCHWAB, Okinawa — A 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion Marine here received his nation’s second highest award for valor Friday.
In a ceremony at Recon Point, Gunnery Sgt. John Mosser was awarded the Navy Cross medal for his actions during a deadly battle in Afghanistan in June.
Maj. Danny Strelkauskas, now the commanding officer of Company F, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, at Camp Pendleton, Calif., attended the ceremony to pin on Mosser’s medal.
Strelkauskas was Mosser’s team leader during that firefight in Afghanistan and has received the Silver Star for his part in the battle. The two of them were leading a team of more than 20 Marines of Company H, 2nd Marine Special Operations Battalion, when the small unit was attacked.
Gen. James B. Laster, commanding general of 3rd Marine Division, also was present for the ceremony.
“Where do we find such men?” Laster said. “It is my opinion that we don’t find them. They find us. They hear the sound of guns, and they respond.”
Mosser was the team sergeant of the Marine patrol that was pinned down by heavy sniper and automatic-weapons fire in a small valley on June 26.
“I had been in firefights before but not like that,” Mosser said Friday. “It was unique. The enemy was well entrenched and firing at us from a high angle above. We were just reacting. There wasn’t much thinking — just return fire and take cover.”
Mosser’s Navy Cross citation said the gunnery sergeant’s reaction was gallant, that he helped save Marines during the bloody battle.
“He single-handedly dragged the wounded Marine over 35 feet to a covered position and administered first aid,” the citation said in part, describing one of Mosser’s heroics during the firefight. “With the entire patrol desperately pinned down, one Marine killed, and five more severely wounded, he devised a plan to break contact and extract his team.”
He then called for and adjusted close air support, dragged that wounded Marine a second time to safety and directed the Marines still in the fight.
Continually exposing himself to enemy fire, he maneuvered the remaining members of his team still trapped in the ambush, all the time constantly engaging the enemy until everyone was safe.
“I wasn’t the only one doing things that day,” Mosser said. “The other Marines and sailors that were with me are some of the bravest people I have had the honor of serving with.”
Strelkauskas said the gunny was humble.
“There should have been a lot more of us that died that day,” Strelkauskas said, “but because of his heroic actions, we made it out of there.”