Posted: Jan 15, 2013 6:41 PM by Matt Stafford
Updated: Jan 16, 2013 6:37 PM
Retired Staff Sergeant Clinton Romesha, who served at Fort Carson, is scheduled to receive the nation's highest military honor - the Medal of Honor - next month. Sergeant Romesha is being singled out for his actions during what some call the fiercest fighting of the war in Afghanistan.
Of all of the names carved into the Fallen Soldiers' Memorial just outside of Fort Carson, eight of them came from one day - October 3rd, 2009. It's was a battle at Combat Outpost Keating, in Afghanistan's northern Nuristan province.
"I've been through Desert Storm, Desert Shield, two rotations to Iraq and then this one to Afghanistan, and absolutely nothing even compared," describes now-Master Sergeant Ronald Burton with the 4th Infantry Division of October 3rd, 2009 at Combat Outpost Keating. "It was just a horrendous day."
Master Sgt. Ronald Burton was a 1st Sergeant at the time, commanding soldiers at Outpost Keating.
The post was deep into dangerous territory, and attacks were regular.
"In the four months prior to October 3rd that we were there, we were attacked, I think it was, like 45 times," says Master Sgt. Burton. "They'd hit us hard, it would last five or ten minutes, and then run off into the mountains."
But on October 3rd, 2009 things changed.
"After 30 minutes we're all like, 'something's different today,'" describes Master Sgt. Burton.
Close to 300 Taliban fighters were trying to take Outpost Keating.
"We had 53 people out there that day," Master Sgt. Burton says, describing the American forces.
"We fought it out about eight to ten hours straight."
Among those 4th Infantry Division soldiers from Fort Carson that day was Staff Sergeant Clinton Romesha.
"We call him 'Ro,'" says Master Sgt. Burton. "He was a Section Sergeant through the whole deployment."
When the battle got underway, Master Sgt. Burton says 'Ro' flew into action.
"He was just all over the place," says Master Sgt. Burton. "He just reacted and made on the spot decisions."
The fighting at Outpost Keating is depicted in the book, The Outpost, by Jake Tapper. He describes a scene early in the battle where fellow soldiers were stuck. Staff Sgt. Romesha grabbed a machine gun out of another soldier's hands and said, "Grab more ammo and follow me." Staff Sgt. Romesha was able to give some cover fire, but then attracted enemy bullets his way; then a grenade hit nearby. Sgt. Romesha was hit with shrapnel, but continued fighting. He was able to give the cover fire to get another soldier to safety, yelling, "Go back to the barracks, I'll cover you." Sgt. Romesha provided the cover.
"(Staff Sgt. Romesha) Just snatched up whoever he could," says Master Sgt. Burton. "Went out and retook certain parts of the camp from the enemy, and just defended them and defended everybody else that was there."
Talking to us at a Fort Carson museum dedicated to soldiers' brave moments, Master Sgt. Burton says he's honored to know Staff Sgt. Romesha's story - and the battle at Outpost Keating - will be alongside the other displays.
"We had seven Silver Star recipients from that day," recalls Master Sgt. Burton.
Master Sgt. Burton has had a chance to talk with now-retired Sgt. Romesha since the news of the Medal of Honor became official.
"His main point was that this was not for him; this is for the troop and everybody that was out there that day," says Master Sgt. Burton; adding that it's especially for the eight friends they lost that day.
"They're all heroes in my book," says Master Sgt. Burton.
Today Staff Sgt. Romesha lives with his family in North Dakota. He'll receive the Medal of Honor in a White House ceremony scheduled for February 11th, 2013.