Former Fort Carson soldier a humble Medal of Honor recipient
By TOM ROEDER | The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.) (Tribune News Service) | Published: January 29, 2015
Clint Romesha's Medal of Honor jingles with the keys and change in the front pocket of his blue jeans.
The ribbon that President Barack Obama hung around his neck two years ago is now wrinkled, but still sky blue. The gilded medal, the nation's highest honor for battlefield valor, is tarnished to a golden brown.
Romesha, a former Fort Carson staff sergeant, says he keeps the medal in his pocket so he can show people that every American has something inside that can lead to the extraordinary.
"It stays with me," he said. "It travels with me."
Those wrinkles and the tarnish aren't from a lack of care or disrespect. They are battle scars from the thousands of hands that have held Romesha's medal at military bases, schools, community gatherings and colleges.
"It's their medal," Romesha explained before sitting down to lunch with his old unit, Fort Carson's 4th Brigade Combat Team.
He likes passing it around to show how normal heroism can be. His luncheon companions added a bit more tarnish to the medal as they talked about what Romesha learned when he earned it on Oct. 3, 2009.
"I'm just Clint," he said. "Nothing special. Never in a million years did I think I would become a Medal of Honor recipient."
Romesha, one of 79 living recipients of the Medal, was with 4th Brigade's 3rd Squadron of the 61st Cavalry Regiment when he earned it in Afghanistan's Korengal Valley. A group of 50 American soldiers at a camp deep in a canyon were attacked by an estimated 300 Taliban fighters.
Despite shrapnel wounds, Romesha repeatedly rallied his soldiers and braved enemy fire during a 12-hour firefight.
"Staff Sgt. Romesha's heroic actions throughout the day-long battle were critical in suppressing an enemy that had far greater numbers," the citation accompanying Romesha's medal reads. "His extraordinary efforts gave Bravo Troop the opportunity to regroup, reorganize and prepare for the counterattack that allowed the Troop to account for its personnel and secure Combat Outpost Keating."
Eight Fort Carson soldiers died in the fight and another two dozen were wounded. Another Fort Carson soldier, Ty Carter, was awarded the Medal of Honor for his efforts to pull wounded comrades to safety in the battle.
"We had guys who didn't come home," Romesha, who lives in North Dakota, said Wednesday. "It's a humbling experience."
Romesha's message to the troops Wednesday was simple. Train hard. Be a good soldier. Make friends.
"Don't let them down," he said.
Lt. Col. Leo Wyszynski, the cavalry squadron's commander, said Romesha and Carter left a legacy in the unit. The soldiers know about the 2009 battle and the heroes who were made that day.
"They feel the burden to live up to it," Wyszynski said.
Squadron Staff Sgt. John Francis, who also fought through the battle at Keating, said he frequently talks to his soldiers about Romesha.
"I let them know what kind of man he is," Francis said.
Romesha, though, doesn't talk much about himself. When he does, it's mostly self-deprecating.
"I still have to take out the trash when my wife tells me to," he said.
To be a hero, he said, just means doing what has to be done in times of crisis.
"Nothing special," he repeats.
Romesha makes earning that tarnished medal seem easy.
"Just follow your gut," he said.
Wysynski, though, said there's little simple about what Romesha did when his crisis came. He turned certain defeat into stunning victory, the colonel said.
"He's just a great American."
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