NCO receives Silver Star for valor in '08 battle at Wanat
By KENT HARRIS | STARS AND STRIPES Published: July 5, 2009
Almost a year after the Army’s deadliest battle to date in Afghanistan, troops who took part in that fight continue to receive recognition for acts of valor.
Staff Sgt. Sean Samaroo, a squad leader with the 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment during a battle in the village of Wanat, is the latest after receiving a Silver Star in a ceremony last month at Fort Jackson, S.C.
More than a dozen troops who participated in the July 13, 2008, battle — in which an estimated 200 enemy fighters ambushed a U.S. force about a quarter that size — have been awarded the Silver Star.
More than two dozen others have received Bronze Star Medals for valor or Army Commendation Medals for valor.
That number includes not only members of “The Rock,” but also Marines embedded with Afghan forces and six soldiers from Company C, 62nd Engineer Battalion, based at Fort Hood, Texas.
“They all fought well,” Samaroo said in a recent phone interview. “They had to.”
Nine soldiers from 2-503 died during the battle.
“I was close to every one of them,” Samaroo said.
He was deployed to Afghanistan for 14 months and his unit was involved in more than 900 engagements with enemy forces.
Two dozen soldiers from the battalion were killed during the rotation and 42 members of the 173rd Airborne Brigade, which includes 2-503, died in all.
So Samaroo, in his third deployment with the brigade to Iraq and Afghanistan, had seen plenty of fighting. And he had seen friends killed.
In Wanat, he thought he was going to join them.
Part of a group of soldiers who had rushed to reinforce the heavily attacked observation post, Samaroo and all the others with him were wounded by a series of rocket-propelled grenade and machine-gun attacks.
Wounded by shrapnel in his legs, left hand and forehead — which bled profusely — he didn’t think he’d survive.
“I was like, ‘Oh God, I’m going to die,’ ” he said. “There was about 10 seconds where I said goodbye to my wife and my son.”
But he regrouped and along with Spc. Michael Denton — also awarded the Silver Star — he helped hold off enemy forces at the post until reinforcements arrived. All the other soldiers with him were too wounded to fire their weapons.
Samaroo, a 35-year-old who was born in New York and grew up in Oklahoma, said the battalion’s training and experience helped most of those involved in the fight to survive.
He said he doesn’t recall all the events during the battle and might not ever do so.
And, other than the recent media attention he’s received, he’s doesn’t try to think back on that day too often.
“Every so often, I do,” he said. “Something I’m doing will spark up a memory. When I’m around other soldiers here, everyone wants to talk about war stories. It’s what soldiers do. But I’m not too into that.”