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RAMADI, Iraq — Two 2nd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division soldiers earned Silver Stars for actions under fire. Both awards were posthumous and both soldiers were from 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, based at a small, austere base in downtown Ramadi called Combat Outpost.

Around noon on Nov. 26, 2004, Pfc. Harrison J. Meyer and the rest of 3rd Platoon, Company D were in the 20th hour of a patrol extended by clashes with insurgents. They’d just taken up post in an abandoned building in the Mula’ab district when a soldier was hit by sniper fire. Meyer, a medic, rushed up the stairs and treated a gunshot wound to the chest of Pvt. Brian Grant, according to unit reports on the incident. Though Grant later died in a hospital, Meyer treated and comforted him until he was evacuated to an aid station.

The platoon moved out of the building to find the sniper. But as they sprinted across a street toward the sniper’s perch, heavy machine-gun fire raked the patrol. Four soldiers were hit in the legs, stuck wounded in the open street. Meyer himself had been shot in the calf and lower abdomen, but was able to move back to cover. The platoon couldn’t suppress the incoming fire.

Ignoring his own wounds, and without orders, Meyer ran out to try to move his wounded colleagues to safety. “Placing himself between the wounded soldiers and the enemy,” the report reads, “he was struck by machine gun rounds multiple times and mortally wounded.”

While this was happening, other soldiers moved into better positions and drove away insurgents. When the shooting stopped, the wounded soldiers were recovered.

But Meyer was dead. Over the next several days, 1st Battalion continued “a battle that lasted for days and ended with the machine gun teams killed or captured. The sniper was captured in a raid two weeks later.” Meyer was credited with saving the lives of five members of his platoon. Meyer, 20, was from Worthington, Ohio.

On Jan. 17, 2005, Staff Sgt. Thomas Vitagliano, led a squad of 5th Platoon, Company C soldiers on a patrol of the Slawa Market in Ramadi. While the platoon talked with shopkeepers and residents, Vitagliano and his squad set up a security perimeter on the west side of the market.

Just before noon, a company after-action report reads, the platoon was hit with machine-gun and rocket-propelled grenade fire.

During the firefight, an orange-and-white taxi approached Vitagliano’s team. He and another soldier forced the car to a halt and ordered its occupants out. The passenger got out, but the driver refused. Vitagliano saw the driver make strange movements; immediately the troops thought the car was rigged to explode.

Vitagliano “placed himself between the vehicle and [another soldier] by pushing him out of the way of the vehicle,” the report reads. “As the vehicle detonated, SSG Vitagliano was killed instantly.” Two other soldiers also were killed. But the soldier Vitagliano pushed out of the way survived with wounds and internal bleeding.

Vitagliano, 33, was credited with saving at least two soldiers’ lives.


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