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Today’s Badass: Matthew G. Axelson, Petty Officer 2nd Class, U.S. Navy

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Matt Axelson was born on June 25, 1976, in Cupertino, California. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy on December 28, 2000, and completed basic training at Recruit Training Command Great Lakes, Illinois, in March 2001. After completing Fleet Antisubmarine Warfare Training in April 2001, Axelson went through SEAL training, Airborne training, and SEAL Vehicle Delivery Team training before being assigned to SEAL Vehicle Delivery Team ONE at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in May 2002. PO2 Axelson deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in April 2005, and he was killed in action during Operation Red Wings on June 28, 2005. Matt Axelson was buried at the Glen Oaks Memorial Park in Chico, California.

His Navy Cross Citation reads:

For extraordinary heroism in actions against the enemy while serving in a four-man Special Reconnaissance element with SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team ONE, Naval Special Warfare Task Unit, Afghanistan from 27 to 28 June 2005. Petty Officer Axelson demonstrated extraordinary heroism in the face of grave danger in the vicinity of Asadabad, Konar Province, Afghanistan. Operating in the middle of an enemy-controlled area, in extremely rugged terrain, his Special Reconnaissance element was tasked with locating a high-level Anti-Coalition Militia leader, in support of a follow-on direct action mission to disrupt enemy activity. On 28 June 2005, the element was spotted by Anti-Coalition Militia sympathizers, who immediately revealed their position to the militia fighters. As a result, the element directly encountered the enemy. Demonstrating exceptional resolve and fully understanding the gravity of the situation, Petty Officer Axelson’s element bravely engaged the militia, who held both a numerical and positional advantage. The ensuing firefight resulted in numerous enemy personnel killed, with several of the Navy members suffering casualties. Ignoring his injuries and demonstrating exceptional composure, Petty Officer Axelson advised the teammate closest to him to escape while he provided cover fire. With total disregard for his own life and thinking only of his teammate’s survival, he continued to attack the enemy, eliminating additional militia fighters, until he was mortally wounded by enemy fire. A champion of freedom, Petty Officer Axelson will be remembered for his self-sacrificing actions in the continuing Global War on Terrorism. By his undaunted courage, fortitude under fire, and unwavering dedication to duty, Petty Officer Axelson reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for the cause of freedom.

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Always keep your Front Toward Enemy,

What’s your enemy?

Today’s Badass: Michael J. Buras, Senior Airman, U.S. Air Force

DOD announces Nellis AFB casualty

Michael Buras was born on July 28, 1987, in Tifton, Georgia. He enlisted in the U.S. Air Force on April 11, 2006, and after completing basic training at Lackland AFB, Texas, he was trained as an Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) technician at Eglin AFB, Florida, from July 2006 to June 2007. His first assignment was as an EOD technician with the 99th Civil Engineer Squadron at Nellis AFB, Nevada, from June 2007 until he was killed in action in Kandahar, Afghanistan, on September 21, 2010. During this time SRA Buras deployed 3 times in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. He was buried at Andersonville National Cemetery in Andersonville, Georgia.

His 2nd Army Commendation Medal w/Valor Citation reads:

For exceptional valorous achievement during Operation Enduring Freedom on 10 August 2009. The outstanding professionalism, military bearing, and ceaseless efforts of Senior Airman Buras resulted in major contributions to the effectiveness and success of counter improvised explosive device operations. His actions are in keeping with the finest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, 755 Air Expeditionary Group Explosive Ordnance Disposal Flight, Operating Location Alpha, 741st Explosive Ordnance Disposal Battalion, Combined Joint Task Force Paladin, and the United States Air Force.

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Always keep your Front Toward Enemy,

What’s your enemy?

Today’s Badass: Harold G. Bennett, Staff Sergeant, U.S. Army

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Harold Bennett was born on October 16, 1940, in Thornburg, Arkansas. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1957, and served in the Armor Branch before going through Special Forces and Ranger training in 1963. He served as a Special Forces Advisor with the Military Assistance Command in South Vietnam from mid-1964 until he was captured and taken as a Prisoner of War on December 29, 1964. After three escape attempts and being held in captivity for 179 days, his Viet Cong captors executed him on June 25, 1965. His remains have never been returned to the United States.

 

His Silver Star Citation reads:

For gallantry in action from 29 December 1964 to 25 June 1965, while serving as a Ranger Advisor to the Vietnamese during the Vietnam War. On 29 December 1964, Staff Sergeant Bennett assisted two companies of the 33d Vietnamese Ranger Battalion in assaulting a powerful Viet Cong Force occupying the village of Binh Gia in Phuoc Tuy Province. En route, the Rangers were ambushed and overwhelmed by enemy forces employing mortars, recoilless rifles, and small arms fire. Staff Sergeant Bennett fearlessly traversed the battlefield, rallying survivors and calling in supporting fire from American gunships in the area. On two separate occasions, Staff Sergeant Bennett refused extraction, electing instead to stay behind and fight. He was eventually captured by the enemy. During his time in captivity, Staff Sergeant Bennett planned three separate escape attempts, the third of which resulted in his finger being bitten to the bone by the Viet Cong guard he was attempting to overcome. As a result of his tenacity and insubordination, Staff Sergeant Bennett was frequently blindfolded and beaten, given reduced rations and shackled in solitary confinement for prolonged periods. On 25 June 1965, the Viet Cong announced that they had executed Staff Sergeant Bennett in reprisal for the Saigon Government’s execution of a communist terrorist. Staff Sergeant Bennett’s valor and intrepidity during combat and his conspicuous courage and bravery while in captivity are in keeping with the finest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Army.

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Always keep your Front Toward Enemy,

What’s your enemy?

Today’s Badass: John A. Chapman, Tech Sergeant, U.S. Air Force

John Chapman was born on July 14, 1965, in Springfield, Massachusetts, and grew up in Windsor Locks, Connecticut. He enlisted in the U.S. Air Force on September 27, 1985, and was trained as an Information Systems Operator. Chapman’s first assignment was with the 1987th Information Systems Squadron at Lowry AFB, Colorado, where he served from February 1986 to June 1989. He then cross-trained into the Combat Control career field and served with the 1721st Combat Control Squadron at Pope AFB, North Carolina, from August 1990 to November 1992. His next assignment was as a Special Tactics Team Member with the 320th Special Tactics Squadron at Kadena AB, Okinawa, from November 1992 to October 1995. Sgt Chapman’s final assignment was with the 24th Special Tactics Squadron at Pope AFB, where he served from October 1995 until he was killed in action in the opening days of the War on Terrorism in Afghanistan, on March 4, 2002. He was buried at the St. Mary Byzantine Cemetery in Windber, Pennsylvania. John married Valerie Novak of Windber, Pennsylvania, on August 22, 1992, and they had two children together, Madison and Brianna. On April 8, 1995, the container ship MV Merlin (T-AK 323) was renamed the MV TSgt John A. Chapman in his honor.

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His Air Force Cross Citation reads:

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Title 10, Section 8742, U.S.C., awards the Air Force Cross to TSgt John Chapman for extraordinary heroism in military operation against an armed enemy of the United States as a 24th Special Tactics Squadron, Combat Controller in the vicinity of Gardez, in the eastern highlands of Afghanistan, on 4 March 2002. On this date, during his helicopter insertion for a reconnaissance and time sensitive targeting close air support mission, Sergeant Chapman’s aircraft came under heavy machine gun fire and received a direct hit from a rocket propelled grenade which caused a United States Navy Sea-Air-Land team member to fall from the aircraft. Though heavily damaged, the aircraft egressed the area and made an emergency landing seven kilometers away. Once on the ground Sergeant Chapman established communication with an AC-130 gunship to insure the area was secure while providing close air support coverage for the entire team. He then directed the gunship to begin the search for the missing team member. He requested, coordinated, and controlled the helicopter that extracted the stranded team and aircrew members. These actions limited the exposure of the aircrew and team to hostile fire. Without regard for his own life, Sergeant Chapman volunteered to rescue his missing team member from an enemy stronghold. Shortly after insertion, the team made contact with the enemy. Sergeant Chapman engaged and killed two enemy personnel. He continued to advance, reaching the enemy position, then engaged a second enemy position, a dug-in machine gun nest. At this time the rescue team came under effective enemy fire from three directions. From close range he exchanged fire with the enemy from minimum personal cover until he succumbed to multiple wounds. His engagement and destruction of the first enemy position and advancement on the second position enabled his team to move to cover and break enemy contact. In his own words, his Navy sea-air-land team leader credits Sergeant Chapman unequivocally with saving the lives of the entire rescue team. Through his extraordinary heroism, superb airmanship, aggressiveness in the face of the enemy, and the dedication to the service of his country, Sergeant Chapman reflects the highest credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.

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Always keep your Front Toward Enemy,

What’s your enemy?

Today’s Badass: Humbert “Rocky” Versace, O-3, U. S. Army, Special Forces

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Rocky Versace was born on July 2, 1937, in Honolulu, Hawaii. He entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point on July 1, 1955, and graduated with a commission as a 2LT of Armor on June 3, 1959. Versace attended the Armor Officer Basic Course from August to October 1959, and then Ranger School from October to December 1959. He served as a Medium Tank Platoon Leader with the 3rd Battalion, 40th Armor, in South Korea from March 1960 to April 1961, and then as a Tank Platoon Leader with Headquarters 3rd Infantry at Fort Myer, Virginia, from May 1961 to December 1962. Lt Versace next completed the Military Assistance Institute Course, the Intelligence Course at the U.S. Army Intelligence Center, and Language School before serving as an Intelligence Advisor to the Republic of Vietnam from May 1962 until he was captured and taken as a Prisoner of War while serving with Advisory Team 70 on October 29, 1963. Capt Versace was held until September 26, 1965, when he was executed by the Viet Cong. His remains have never been returned.

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His Medal of Honor Citation reads:

Captain Humbert R. Versace distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism during the period of 29 October 1963 to 26 September 1965, while serving as S-2 Advisor, Military Assistance Advisory Group, Detachment 52, Ca Mau, Republic of Vietnam. While accompanying a Civilian Irregular Defense Group patrol engaged in combat operations in Thoi Binh District, An Xuyen Province, Captain Versace and the patrol came under sudden and intense mortar, automatic weapons, and small arms fire from elements of a heavily armed enemy battalion. As the battle raged, Captain Versace, although severely wounded in the knee and back by hostile fire, fought valiantly and continued to engage enemy targets. Weakened by his wounds and fatigued by the fierce firefight, Captain Versace stubbornly resisted capture by the over-powering Viet Cong force with the last full measure of his strength and ammunition. Taken prisoner by the Viet Cong, he exemplified the tenets of the Code of Conduct from the time he entered into Prisoner of War status. Captain Versace assumed command of his fellow American soldiers, scorned the enemy’s exhaustive interrogation and indoctrination efforts, and made three unsuccessful attempts to escape, despite his weakened condition which was brought about by his wounds and the extreme privation and hardships he was forced to endure. During his captivity, Captain Versace was segregated in an isolated prisoner of war cage, manacled in irons for prolonged periods of time, and placed on extremely reduced ration. The enemy was unable to break his indomitable will, his faith in God, and his trust in the United States of America. Captain Versace, an American fighting man who epitomized the principles of his country and the Code of Conduct, was executed by the Viet Cong on 26 September 1965. Captain Versace’s gallant actions in close contact with an enemy force and unyielding courage and bravery while a prisoner of war are in the highest traditions of the military service and reflect the utmost credit upon himself and the United States Army.

Today’s Badass: Neil C. Roberts, Petty Officer First Class (SEAL) U.S. Navy

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Neil Roberts was born on August 16, 1969, in Woodland, California. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy on September 14, 1987, and completed basic training at NTC Orlando, Florida, in November 1987. Roberts next attended Aviation Electrician’s Mate training at NATTC Millington, Tennessee, from November 1987 to May 1988, followed by service as an EP-3 Aries I aircrew member with Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron ONE (VQ-1) at NAS Agana, Guam, from June 1988 to January 1992. During this time he deployed with his Squadron in support of Operation Desert Shield from August 1990 to January 1991, and Desert Storm from January to March 1991. Petty Officer Roberts attended Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training with Class 184 at NAB Coronado, California, from January to October 1992, and then attended Jump School at Fort Benning, Georgia, in October and November 1992. His next assignment was with SEAL Team TWO at NAB Little Creek, Virginia, from November 1992 to June 1999, and during this time he deployed to San Vito, Italy, to support Allied Forces during the Bosnian War from November 1993 to May 1994, and to Sarajevo, Bosnia/Herzegovina, with the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force – Stabilization Force from September 1997 to October 1998. Petty Officer Roberts’ final assignment was with Naval Special Warfare Development Group (DEVGRU) at Dam Neck Annex, Virginia, from June 1999 until he became the first Navy SEAL killed in action during Operation Enduring Freedom, Afghanistan, on March 4, 2002. He was buried at Prospect Hill Cemetery in York, Pennsylvania.

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His Silver Star Medal Citation reads:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action against the enemy while serving as a member of a special operations unit that conducted multiple insertions and combat operations deep behind enemy lines from 9 January to 5 March 2002. During this period, Petty Officer Roberts was assigned to a combined joint task force in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM. Petty Officer Roberts performed superbly during several, in-extremis, combat operations and rescue of personnel, deep in enemy-controlled territory while under fire from enemy forces. On 3 March 2002, his unit planned an operation in the Paktia Province in support of Operation ANACONDA, the largest combat operation against enemy forces to date. On that evening, his unit was to conduct a clandestine insertion onto a 10,000 foot mountain peak to establish an over watch position. As the helicopter moved into position for the insertion, Petty Officer Roberts positioned himself on the helicopter ramp in order to expeditiously exit the helicopter, minimizing the threat to the aircraft and crew. Without notice, his CH-47 helicopter received a rocket-propelled grenade exploding through the body of the aircraft. Hydraulic lines showered the metal ramp with slippery fluid as the aircraft lurched violently from the unexpected assault. Petty Officer Roberts was thrown from the ramp of the helicopter falling onto the enemy infested mountain top just feet below. He immediately maneuvered to establish a defensive position and make contact with rescue forces. He defiantly fought the overwhelming enemy forces undoubtedly causing significant tolls to their numbers. Surrounded by superior fire power, he died on the battlefield from fatal combat wounds. Petty Officer Roberts’ bold leadership, wise judgment, and complete dedication to duty reflected great credit upon him and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

Today’s Badass: Daniel L. Zerbe, Tech Sergeant (Pararescue), U.S. Air Force

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Daniel Zerbe was born on June 27, 1983, in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. He enlisted in the U.S. Air Force on August 21, 2001, and completed basic training at Lackland AFB, Texas, in October 2001. After completing the U.S. Air Force Pararescue training pipeline, Sgt Zerbe served as a Pararescueman with the 38th Rescue Squadron at Moody AFB, Georgia, from March 2003 to May 2006. He then served as a Pararescueman and Special Tactics Team Member with the 24th Special Tactics Squadron at Pope AFB, North Carolina, from May 2006 until he was killed in action when the CH-47 Chinook helicopter he was aboard was shot down in Afghanistan on August 6, 2011. During this time, TSgt Zerbe deployed multiple times to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, and to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Daniel Zerbe was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

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His 2nd Bronze Star with Valor Citation reads:

On: 31 October 2008 – For exceptionally valorous achievement as an assault force pararescueman for a Joint Task Force in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. On this date, Sergeant Zerbe’s bravery under fire and decisive actions were instrumental to the elimination of a high ranking Taliban facilitator and enemy combatants. During an intense firefight, without regard for his own personal safety, Sergeant Zerbe exposed himself to enemy contact and maneuvered to a position of tactical advantage, enabling him to eliminate armed enemy combatants. His actions were crucial in ensuring the protection of the assault force and the success of the mission. Through his distinctive accomplishments, Staff Sergeant Zerbe reflected great credit upon himself, this command, the United States Air Force, and the United States Army.

His 4th Bronze Star Medal Citation reads:

Period: 1 July 2011 to 6 August 2011 – For exceptionally meritorious achievement as an assault force pararescueman for a Joint Task Force in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. During this period, Sergeant Zerbe conducted several objectives resulting in multiple enemies eliminated and detained. He led the full spectrum medical and rescue planning, ensuring the successful execution of the task force’s highest priority missions. On 4 August 2011, Sergeant Zerbe and his team responded on a mission to eliminate or capture a high-value Taliban commander in Afghanistan. His helicopter was attacked in the target area by enemy fighters and was shot down by a rocket propelled grenade.

Today’s Badass: John W. Brown, Tech Sergeant (Pararescue), U.S. Air Force

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John Brown was born on November 3, 1977, in California. He enlisted in the U.S. Air Force on March 18, 2002, and completed basic training at Lackland AFB, Texas, in May 2002. After completing the U.S. Air Force Pararescue Pipeline, Sgt Brown served as a Pararescueman with the 38th Rescue Squadron at Moody AFB, Georgia, from October 2003 to January 2006, followed by service as a Pararescueman with the 31st Rescue Squadron at Kadena AB, Okinawa, from January 2006 to January 2009. His next assignment was as a Pararescueman and Special Tactics Team Member with the 24th Special Tactics Squadron at Pope AFB, North Carolina, from January 2009 until he was killed in action when the CH-47 Chinook helicopter he was aboard was shot down in Afghanistan on August 6, 2011. John Brown was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

His 1st Bronze Star Medal Citation reads:

Period: 27 February 2010 to 28 June 2010 – For exceptionally meritorious achievement as a combat search and rescue team leader for a Joint Task Force in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. During this period, Sergeant Brown provided rescue coverage for numerous combat operations in hostile territory. He led his team in recovering several crew member remains and sensitive items from a crashed aircraft as well as treatment and evacuation of the wounded. Sergeant Brown coordinated casualty collection, triage, evacuation, blocking positions and communications with base operations for accountability during synchronized anti-coalition fighter and rocket attacks. Through his distinctive accomplishments, Staff Sergeant Brown reflected great credit upon himself, this command, the United States Air Force, and the United States Army.

His 2nd Bronze Star Medal Citation reads:

Period: 1 July 2011 to 6 August 2011 – For exceptionally meritorious achievement as an Assault Force Pararescueman for a Joint Task Force in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. During this period, Sergeant Brown conducted several objectives resulting in multiple enemies eliminated and detained. He led the full spectrum medical and rescue planning, ensuring the successful execution of the task force’s highest priority missions. On 5 August 2011, Sergeant Brown and his team responded on a mission to eliminate or capture a high-value Taliban commander in Afghanistan. His helicopter was attacked in the target area by enemy fighters and was shot down by a rocket propelled grenade. Through his distinctive accomplishments, Technical Sergeant Brown reflected great credit upon himself, this command, the United States Air Force, and the United States Army.

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Today’s Badass: Darrik C. Benson, Petty Officer 1st Class (SEAL)

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Darrik Benson was born on October 3, 1982, in Angwin, California. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 2001, and completed Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL Training, Jump School, and SEAL Qualification Training before being assigned to SEAL Team THREE at NAB Coronado, California, from June 2003 to September 2009. During this time, SO1 Benson deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom from October 2004 to January 2005, and from April to October 2008. His next assignment was in Gold Squadron with the Naval Special Warfare Development Group (DEVGRU) at Dam Neck, Virginia, from September 2009 until he was killed in action aboard a CH-47 Chinook helicopter in Afghanistan on August 6, 2011. Darrik Benson was buried at Fort Rosecrans National Cemtery in San Diego, California.

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His Bronze Star Medal w/Valor Citation reads:

For heroic achievement in connection with combat operations against the enemy as an Assault Team Member for a Joint Task Force in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM from 1 March 2010 to 1 July 2010. During this period, Petty Officer First Class Benson consistently and deliberately exposed himself to enemy fire while conducting several direct action missions, resulting in the elimination of numerous enemy fighters and the capture of others. On 17 March 2010, Petty Officer First Class Benson was positioned on a roof during a daring nighttime raid in an enemy controlled valley when the enemy fighters opened fire on his team. He quickly returned fire, eliminating the fighters as the assault force came under heavy enemy fire from numerous positions within the targeted compound and throughout the valley. When a barricaded shooter mortally wounded his teammate, Petty Officer First Class Benson moved from his position to explosively breach the external wall of the room containing the barricaded shooter. Through the breached wall, he engaged the barricaded shooter with grenades enabling his teammates to enter the compound and recover their wounded teammate. By his extraordinary guidance, zealous initiative, and total dedication to duty, Petty Officer First Class Benson reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

Today’s Badass: Luther H. Story (Medal of Honor)

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Luther Story was born on July 20, 1931, in Buena Vista, Georgia. He enlisted in the U.S. Army on October 21, 1948, and after completing Basic Training and Advanced Training as an Infantryman, PFC Story served with Company A, 9th Infantry Regiment of the 2nd Infantry Division at Fort Lewis, Washington, until July 1950, when he deployed with his unit to Pusan, South Korea, at the beginning of the Korean War. CPL Story was killed in action near Agok, South Korea, on September 1, 1950, but he was officially listed as Missing in Action until he was declared dead on September 1, 1953. His remains have never been returned, but he does have a cenotaph marker at Andersonville National Cemetery near Andersonville, Georgia.LutherHStoryRibbons

His Medal of Honor Citation reads:

Pfc. Story, distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action. A savage daylight attack by elements of 3 enemy divisions penetrated the thinly held lines of the 9th Infantry. Company A beat off several banzai attacks but was bypassed and in danger of being cut off and surrounded. Pfc. Story, a weapons squad leader, was heavily engaged in stopping the early attacks and had just moved his squad to a position overlooking the Naktong River when he observed a large group of the enemy crossing the river to attack Company A. Seizing a machine gun from his wounded gunner he placed deadly fire on the hostile column killing or wounding an estimated 100 enemy soldiers. Facing certain encirclement the company commander ordered a withdrawal. During the move Pfc. Story noticed the approach of an enemy truck loaded with troops and towing an ammunition trailer. Alerting his comrades to take cover he fearlessly stood in the middle of the road, throwing grenades into the truck. Out of grenades he crawled to his squad, gathered up additional grenades and again attacked the vehicle. During the withdrawal the company was attacked by such superior numbers that it was forced to deploy in a rice field. Pfc. Story was wounded in this action, but, disregarding his wounds, rallied the men about him and repelled the attack. Realizing that his wounds would hamper his comrades he refused to retire to the next position but remained to cover the company’s withdrawal. When last seen he was firing every weapon available and fighting off another hostile assault. Private Story’s extraordinary heroism, aggressive leadership, and supreme devotion to duty reflect the highest credit upon himself and were in keeping with the esteemed traditions of the military service.