decorpurpleheart.gifdecorbs-v.gifcib.gif101stairbornedivision.png2_sfpatch.jpgSFC Michael S. McElhiney isn’t a hero because of the Bronze Star Medal with “V” Device and Purple Heart on the left pocket of his battle dress uniform. Like other soldiers from the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) who received awards from Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric K. Shinseki at a Fort Campbell, Ky., ceremony for their service in Afghanistan, he’ll tell you that medals don’t really make heroes. What makes SFC McElhiney heroic is the fight he’s in now and the way he’s waging it.
He received his awards with an empty BDU sleeve at his side. He lost his right hand and part of his forearm to the errant bomb blast that killed three Special Forces (SF) soldiers on a hill outside Kandahar. His left arm suffered nerve damage, and he also was hit in the chest.
He was well enough to leave Walter Reed Army Medical Center and attend the award ceremony, but he returned to continue rehabilitation soon after it was over. SFC McElhiney faces a long, hard comeback.“You wish it didn’t happen to you, but that isn’t a regret,” he said. “We’re all volunteers in Special Forces, and there is no better unit to serve with,” he said, explaining that he knew what he was getting into when he put on the Green Beret and what could happen. He said that he went to Afghanistan with the attitude that it was “payback for the American people.”“I feel sorry for the loss of teammates,” he added.SFC McElhiney’s wife, Judy, is his ally in the fight. She’s a Special Forces wife, through and through. “This is the first time that Special Forces has been recognized this way,” Mrs. McElhiney said following the ceremony. “The Army has taken really good care of us during this,” she said.

“Mike has been given the option to stay in,” she added, “but we’ll figure that out when he’s finished rehabilitation. Regardless, he’ll stay in the SF community in some way. He might be involved in training or liaison work…something like that,” she explained.

SFC McElhiney and his teammate from Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA) 574, SFC Ronnie L. Raikes were in high demand for television interviews following the ceremony… largely because of their unfortunate circumstances of being the most severely and visibly wounded of the soldiers receiving awards.

SFC Raikes wore BDUs, too, because he was on temporary release from treatment at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. His right arm was in an elaborate brace because of nerve damage he received in the accidental bombing. He was awarded a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star Medal.

Gen. Shinseki awarded the 5th Special Forces Group soldiers their Bronze Star Medals and Bronze Star Medals with “V” (for valor) at the Fort Campbell ceremony. SFC Gilbert Magallanes Jr., remained hospitalized for treatment of his wounds.
The ceremony honored the soldiers who were involved in the accidental bombing incident and those who helped put down the prison revolt at Mazar-e-Sharif and who returned to the United States because of their wounds. Other Special Forces members will be honored when they return from the fighting.

During one of the many television interviews, SFC Raikes said, “We don’t consider ourselves heroes. Our families are heroes. The people supporting us back in the States are heroes.”

SFC Raikes said the accidental bombing incident was just that…an accident.

“Accidents happen,” he said. “I just hope it’s the last accident that happens. It was a freak accident, and it
just happened to us. Everybody’s not perfect…and everything is not peaches and cream wherever we go. I’m just glad that SF and the Army let us do our job in Afghanistan.”

What surprised every soldier at the ceremony was the support of the American people they received when they came home.
“Until I got back, I didn’t realize how intense the support was,” SFC Raikes said. “It’s overwhelming, and it’s great to have the support of the American people.” SFC McElhiney said, “I think the support of the American people has always been there, but sometimes it takes a disaster like September 11 to bring it out.”

“I have never seen so many American flags,” SFC Raikes added. “We are proud to have gone to Afghanistan to take care of these people who attacked America. And we’re going to get the bad guys, including bin Laden. They won’t get away with it.”

Maj. Gen. Geoffrey C. Lambert, Commanding General of the U.S. Army Special Forces Command (Airborne), spoke at the awards ceremony. Talking about the accomplishments of his soldiers in Afghanistan, he said, “They had to conquer the differences in language, culture and religion, and they had to conquer centuries of differences in technology…
and finally they had to conquer the Taliban, and they’ve done that.”

SFC McElhiney said, “We’re doing this now so people can live without fear later. That’s in everybody’s hearts. I know that’s what was in my heart.”

AWARDS

Silver Star

MSgt. Jefferson D. Davis*
SFC Daniel H. Petithory*

Bronze Star Medal w/V-Device
Capt. Jason L. Amerine
SFC Gilbert Magallanes Jr. **
SFC Michael S. McElhiney
SFC Christopher A. Pickett
SSgt. Wesley A. McGirr
SSgt. Brian C. Prosser*

Bronze Star Medal
Capt. Kevin C. Leahy
Capt. Paul R. Syverson
SFC Paul Beck
SFC Vaughn A. Berntson
SFC Ronnie L. Raikes
SSgt. Bradley J. Fowers
1st Sgt. David B. Betz

Purple Heart
Capt. Jason L. Amerine
Capt. Kevin C. Leahy
Capt. John F. Leopold
Capt. Paul R. Syverson
CW2 Terry W. Reed
MSgt. Jefferson D. Davis*
SFC Paul Beck
SFC Vaughn A. Berntson
SFC David C. Kennedy
SFC Gilbert Magallanes Jr.**
SFC Michael S. McElhiney
SFC Daniel H. Petithory*
SFC Christopher A. Pickett
SFC Ronnie L. Raikes
SSgt. Hamid Fathi
SSgt. Bradley J. Fowers
SSgt. Wesley A. McGirr
SSgt. Craig A. Musselman
SSgt. Brian C. Prosser*
SSgt. Alan Yoshita
1st Sgt. David B. Betz
Spc. John A. Menefee

Combat Infantrymen Badge
Capt. Jason L. Amerine
Capt. Kevin C. Leahy
Capt. Paul R. Syverson
MSgt. Jefferson D. Davis*
SFC Vaughn A. Berntson
SFC Michael S. McElhiney
SFC Daniel H. Petithory*
SFC Ronnie L. Raikes
SSgt. Bradley J. Fowers
SSgt. Wesley A. McGirr
SSgt. Hamid Fathi

Combat Infantryman Badge
(2nd Award)
CW2 Terry W. Reed
SFC Paul Beck
SFC Gilbert Magallanes Jr.**
1st Sgt. David B. Betz

Combat Medical Badge
SFC Christopher A. Pickett

Combat Medical Badge (2nd Award)
SFC David C. Kennedy

*Posthumous  

 

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