The United States invaded Iraq ten years ago today—on March 20, 2003—a conflict in which 4,486 U.S. service members gave their lives and more than 32,000 were wounded. The Washington Free Beacon has put together eight stories of tremendous acts of heroism performed by U.S. service members in Iraq—though there are hundreds more stories of heroism, bravery, and kindness shown by those who served in Iraq, as well as by those Americans who have served in the ongoing war in Afghanistan (and the 68,000 Americans who are serving in Afghanistan today).
1. Joshua Mooi
Nov. 16, 2005, started off “normal.” Then 21 insurgents attacked the platoon of the then-19-year-old former Marine Lance Cpl. Joshua Mooi. He ran into one of the “heavily fortified” buildings from which insurgents were attacking to pursue the enemy and rescue wounded Marines. He did this six times. He kept on going until his rifle was destroyed and he was ordered to stop. Mooi was awarded the Navy Cross and is now a police officer in the Chicago area.
2. The Marines and Baby Mariam
Navy Hospital Corpsman Chris Walsh and the three Marines he was with in June 2006 were not looking for a baby. After a roadside bomb disrupted their routine patrol in Fallujah, an Iraqi woman flagged the group, repeating over and over, “Baby. Baby sick.” The girl, Mariam, was born with her bladder outside her body.
Determined to help her, Walsh took photos to show to a doctor back at camp. Mariam would need surgery in the United States, the doctor said. At night, Walsh and the group of Marines returned to the home each week to administer some kind of aid to the girl in hopes of staving off infections while Walsh and others searched for a solution to send her stateside.
When Walsh and two of three Marines were killed by a roadside bomb in September 2006, the other Marines in their battalion undertook Walsh’s efforts, ultimately finding a way to send Mariam to Boston in October 2006 for a successful surgery. (You can read more on this at the San Diego Union-Tribune and Tulsa World)
3. ‘She’s one of the few pilots who ever landed the A-10 in the manual mode’
Early in the Iraq war, on April 7, 2003, ground forces ran into trouble on the North Baghdad Bridge. Enemy fighters had blocked the site, with allies advancing. A-10 fighter pilot and then-Capt. Kim Campbell was called in to provide air support. Campbell, call sign “Killer Chick,” deployed explosive rockets and scored a direct hit. But returning from that weapons pass, her A-10 sustained heavy damage. The jet rolled left, pointed toward the ground. Nothing Campbell did worked. She had lost all the jet’s hydraulics. At that point, Campbell flipped the jet into manual reversion—still with no steering, no brakes—regained control, flew the jet more than a 100 miles back to Kuwait, and became one of just a handful of people to land an A-10 manually. Lt. Col. Campbell was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross for her efforts.
4. Lt. Cmdr. Bill Krissoff
After his son was killed by a roadside bomb in December 2006 during his deployment as a Marine officer, Dr. Bill Krissoff closed up his California medical practice and enlisted in the Navy at age 60. Initially running into age barriers, Lt. Cmdr. Krissoff went on to serve in Taqaddum and then in Afghanistan. “I wanted a sense of completing Nathan’s unfinished task,” Krissoff told the Los Angeles Times in 2009.
5. ‘I lifted up my arm … and my hand was completely missing’
Outside a house of insurgents, and facing casualties, Cpl. Javier Alvarez moved toward the danger in November 2005. During that sprint, insurgents shot him three times in the leg. During treatment on his leg, more enemy fire came, so Alvarez grabbed his rifle and returned fire. At this point, Alvarez heard calls of an incoming grenade. He grabbed the grenade and threw it away—saving six Marines and losing his hand in the process. “I lifted up my arm to see what happened, and my hand was completely missing,” he told Stars and Stripes in 2009. Alvarez was awarded a Silver Star for his efforts. “I didn’t mourn over my losses or injuries,” he said in 2009. “I had a mission to accomplish and I had other stuff that was going on. I had Marines I had to take care of.”
6. Army Capt. Shannon Kay
During a December 2004 patrol, Capt. Shannon Kay and other soldiers were securing a roadside ammunition cache when they were told a suicide car bomb was coming their way. Kay hit the driver of the car four times with his M4 but couldn’t stop him before he hit Kay’s Stryker. Despite his own injuries, Kay dragged soldiers from the burning vehicle as they fell under enemy fire—rifles, mortars, and rockets. Kay saved the lives of seven others and was awarded the Silver Star. “It’s a pretty easy decision to make when you have soldiers you’re responsible for,” he told the Military Times.
7. Navy SEAL Michael Monsoor
Posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, Navy SEAL Michael Monsoor was defending the position of SEAL snipers with a machine gun against insurgents on a rooftop in an insurgent-held part of Iraq in September 2006. The snipers thwarted the insurgents’ first attempt, but during the continued assault, an insurgent grenade reached the roof and bounced off Monsoor’s chest. Monsoor immediately called, “GRENADE,” and jumped on it to absorb the explosion with his own body—even though he could have escaped the position. Monsoor died shortly after the explosion. He saved the lives of two other SEALs.
8. Hospital Corpsman Juan Rubio
During a New Years Day dismounted patrol in 2006, the platoon Petty Officer Juan Rubio was assigned to was ambushed by insurgents who detonated explosives and fired rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns. Rubio “crawled through open terrain,” according to his citation, exposing himself to enemy fire, to provide aid to multiple injured Marines. Rubio himself was injured. “[He] told me I was hit, and I said, ‘No, I’m not — it’s other people’s blood,’” he told Stars and Stripes, “and he goes, ‘No, doc, your pants are ripped and I can see it! Holy s—! Doc’s hit!’” Rubio worked “simultaneously on three urgent surgical casualties” and coached other Marines through procedures, all while under fire. He then exposed himself again to enemy fire to evacuate the casualties. He was awarded a Silver Star for his efforts.