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Staff Sgt. Jonathon Zapien, of the 3rd Special Forces Group at Ft. Bragg, N.C., receives the German Ehrenmedaille (Honor Medal) from Gen. Wolfgang Schneiderhan, the German chief of defense, at the German Ministry of Defense in Berlin on Tuesday.
Staff Sgt. Jonathon Zapien, of the 3rd Special Forces Group at Ft. Bragg, N.C., receives the German Ehrenmedaille (Honor Medal) from Gen. Wolfgang Schneiderhan, the German chief of defense, at the German Ministry of Defense in Berlin on Tuesday. (EUCOM)

A U.S. Special Forces soldier on Tuesday was awarded the highest medal that can be given by the German army to a foreign enlisted troop.

Staff Sgt. Jonathon A. Zapien of 3rd Special Forces Group, out of Fort Bragg, N.C., was presented the Ehrenmedaille, or Honor Medal, during a ceremony in Berlin. Zapien accompanied a German special forces unit from June to October 2005 during missions in southeastern Afghanistan.

In his job, Zapien, a senior weapons sergeant, acted as a liaison between U.S. and German special operators while also engaging with the Germans in combat operations.

“They were an exceptional group of soldiers,” Zapien said of his German counterparts. “It was far beyond your average soldier, even a cut above special operations.”

John Tomassi, a spokesman for the U.S. European Command, said Zapien was credited with helping save the life of a German soldier by calling in air and ground medical support during one combat operation.

“On my last rotation, I lost two friends when I was there,” Zapien said. “This really should go more to them.

“There are a lot of soldiers who on a daily basis do a lot of things but don’t receive any awards. I’m receiving this on behalf of them.”

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