Badghis province, Afghanistan — July 24, 2012
The target was an expert bomb maker, suspected of killing numerous U.S. and NATO troops in western Afghanistan.
As Staff Sgt. Andrew Seif and Sgt. Justin Hansen closed in on the enemy during a secret raid, the two Marines maneuvered to prevent the suspect’s escape.
That’s when shots rang out on July 24, 2012, and Seif heard the calls for help.
Rather than wait for reinforcements, the critical skills operator with 2d Marine Special Operations Battalion moved toward his injured comrade Hansen and the enemy fire.
For his actions that day in Badghis province, Afghanistan, Seif was recognized with the Silver Star, the country’s third-highest medal for valor. On March 6, he was honored during a ceremony at his Special Operations Command headquarters at Camp Lejeune, N.C., where he was described as a humble Marine inclined to give credit to teammates rather than himself.
Less than a week later, he was dead.
Seif, 26, was among 11 Marines and National Guardsmen who died in a helicopter crash March 10 during exercises off the Florida coast.
For special operators, it was the kind of intensive training that was required to execute battlefield operations like the one Seif encountered in Afghanistan in 2012.
When Hansen was wounded, Seif rushed to treat the injuries while returning fire. He then moved across open ground, exposing himself to enemy fire, to enter the enemy’s compound alone. There, he single-handedly cleared the building.
After securing the area, he returned to Hansen to continue rendering aid.
“The fact that (Seif) continued to fight through the objective to get Sgt. Hansen taken care of, putting himself in the line of fire, speaks volumes to who he is and demonstrates that he would never leave a Marine behind,” Marine Special Operations Commander Maj. Gen. Joseph L. Osterman said during the Silver Star ceremony. “This is truly in the category of gallantry and valor for which these awards are set up.”
Despite the challenges Seif faced, the mission was accomplished. The bomb maker was taken out. Hansen didn’t survive his battlefield injuries, but while mortally wounded he still was a key part of the mission’s success, Seif had said.
Seif, who was born in Alaska and grew up in Holland, Mich., joined the Marines after graduating high school. He deployed to Iraq in 2008 as a combat engineer and in 2010 he made the jump to the Corps’ special operations command.
He won the USO’s Marine of the Year award in 2013, commended by his commanding officer for the “vigor, tenacity and common sense” he brought to every endeavor.
Seif’s wife was with him when he received the Silver Star. Recalling the events on the battlefield at the ceremony, he said extreme situations bring out the best in Marines.
“That day a lot of people showed their worth,” he said.