KIA 16 AUG 2005 near Yusufiyah Iraq
USA E 108 CAV 48th BCT GAARNG
My thoughts are with you and your family today, Robert. We'll always love and remember Mike.
In the early hours of July 13, 2008, a battle was raging in Wanat, Afghanistan.
In the final hours of the battle, a medevac helicopter flew in, navigating through heavy fire from enemy and U.S. forces to rescue the injured.
Dr. Justin Madill, 39, was the doctor on that helicopter. The Billings native now lives in Great Falls and is an emergency room physician at Benefis Health System. His parents, Cecil and Linda Madill, also live in Great Falls.
"There was really no good place to land," Madill said. "I thought for sure I was going to die."
Madill and other medics had to climb down farming terraces and through razor wire to reach the troops and then help them back up to the helicopter.
Staff Sgt. Ryan Pitts was one of the troops Madill pulled out that day.
Last month, Pitts was awarded the Medal of Honor at the White House for his actions during the battle.
Madill and the other troops involved attended the ceremony.
It was the first time they were all together again, in a calm and safe situation, Madill said.
At the ceremony, he also met family members of those killed during his deployment, including Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Kahler, for whom the outpost at Wanat was named.
Kahler was Pitt's platoon sergeant who was killed in January 2008 and was Madill's first medevac mission in Afghanistan.
"It gave everyone a sense of closure," Madill said. "It was a bigger deal than I thought it was going to be."
Former Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Pitts received the Medal of Honor on Monday for his heroism during the Battle of Wanat in 2008, one of deadliest clashes of the Afghanistan War.
As President Obama draped the nation’s highest award for valor around Pitts neck at a White House ceremony, the former infantryman said his mind was on his nine “brothers” who fought beside him and died in that battle.
“Standing there, I thought of these incredible men, and those present here today, especially our brothers who fell,” Pitts said in a brief statement after the ceremony. “Valor was everywhere that day, and the real heroes are those who made the ultimate sacrifice so the rest of us could return home.”
Bolstered by four soldiers who braved gunfire to help hold the position, Pitts called for air support that helped repel the attack and prevented the enemy from taking the remains of his fellow soldiers who had been killed.
1st Lt. Jonathan P. Brostrom, 24
Sgt. Israel Garcia, 24
Cpl. Jonathan R. Ayers, 24
Cpl. Jason M. Bogar, 25
Cpl. Jason D. Hovater, 24
Cpl. Matthew B. Phillips, 27
Cpl. Pruitt A. Rainey, 22
Cpl. Gunnar W. Zwilling, 20
Spc. Sergio S. Abad, 21
In an Army Times interview weeks earlier, then-Capt. Matthew Myer, the company commander who was at VPB Kahler that day, said Pitts, who continued to fight and radio in information despite his injuries, was the “linchpin that held that ground.”
An Army statement lauds Pitts’ “incredible toughness, determination, and ability to communicate with leadership while under fire” for allowing “U.S. forces to hold the observation post and turn the tide of the battle.”
Pitts separated from the Army on October 27, 2009, from Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He has since begun work in business development for the computer software industry.
He is the ninth living service member to receive the nation’s highest award for valor for actions in Afghanistan or Iraq. Seven troops have received the medal posthumously for their actions in those wars. Pitts is also the third soldier from 2/503 to receive the MoH for actions during the unit’s 2007-2008 deployment to Afghanistan. Former Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta was the first living service member to be honored for his actions in Iraq or Afghanistan; before Pitts, Sgt. Kyle White had been the most recent, in May. All three men deployed together in the same battalion in May 2007 for a 15-month tour in some of the toughest parts of eastern Afghanistan.
Fewer warfighters have died from bleeding complications in forward-based hospitals since 2006, when the military changed its protocol of blood transfusions used for such cases, according to a study published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The DCR ["damage control resuscitation"] protocol is now widely used in civilian trauma centers, said Dr. John B. Holcomb, a surgeon with the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston who retired from the Army in 2008 after serving 23 years.
“Everybody says that the silver lining that comes out war is improved trauma care, and I think this war is no exception,” Holcomb said.
KANDAHAR AIR FIELD, Afghanistan — Five soldiers had a chance to be with fellow soldiers once more and leave a combat zone on their own terms, including Fort Hood’s Col. Timothy Karcher, chief of staff for Operational Test Command.
Within minutes of touching down in Kandahar, Black Hawk helicopters lifted the wounded warriors back into the air to take them to Forward Operating Base Pasab.
Karcher said just being able to thank the soldiers in the fight was satisfying enough for him, because he couldn’t otherwise be with soldiers in a combat zone.
“I miss being with soldiers more than I miss my legs, but the fact of the matter is I get to come back and see you all,” he said.
The wounded warriors enjoyed town hall meetings where they met with soldiers and answered questions, both to give them insight and encouragement.
Questions ranged from how they’ve dealt with the loss of limbs and eyesight to how their front-line care saved their lives. One question that was asked at both Pasab and Kandahar was what soldiers could do to help their injured buddies back home?
“If you guys could do one thing to increase the morale of those guys in some hospital trying to heal, contact them every now and again,” said Adam Hartswick, who was injured serving with the 1st Armored Division about a year ago. “I’ve got to tell you, when I got a call from the guys it was the highlight of my week, because you are there lying in bed, and you want to know what’s going on with your brothers and sisters over here. So just pick up the phone and call.”