Guardsmen receive Bronze Star at Veteran's Day ceremony
Two New York Army National Guard Soldiers assigned to Combined Joint Task Force Phoenix received Bronze Star Medals with Valor during a Veterans Day ceremony at Camp Phoenix in Kabul on Tuesday.
Capt. Joseph Merrill of Binghamton, commander of Ithaca-based Company D, 2nd Battalion 108th Infantry and 1st Sgt. James Meltz of Cropseyville, also assigned to Company D, were honored for combat actions on 25 and 26 May.
The unit was providing security for a long-range convoy from Kabul to Kandahar when it was ambushed. Both leaders were credited for "direct actions that lead to the repulsion of enemy forces without the injury or death to U.S. forces."
"Veterans are people who know the true meaning of courage and what it really takes to keep a nation free and strong," said Col. Brian K. Balfe, commander of Combined Joint Task Force Phoenix VII and New York’s 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, “and yet compassion is also a part of their legacy.”
Both Capt. Merrill and 1st Sgt. Meltz previously served in Iraq with other New York units. In Afghanistan they often provided security and support for humanitarian outreach efforts and civil medical assistance operations.
“This is an honor,” said Merrill, who was surprised to receive the award. “That first night was a 3-hour fight. The enemy showed up and stuck around. They wanted to play.”
“As a company, we will complete over 1100 missions before we finish,” he added. “We figured that after those incidents the enemy took note and for the most part then left us alone."
According to Merrill, the enemy now deliberately avoids engaging up-armored humvees from his unit that carried the phoenix logo.
Lt. Col. Paul Fanning is submitting photos to accompany this blog in a gallery, "Pictures from the Front." To view the most recent photos, which accompany this blog entry, click here. To view the entire gallery, click here.