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Last month the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs held its annual event honoring six young military heroes for their bravery in the war on terrorism. The six represent each of the five branches of the U.S. military and the U.S. Special Operations Command. These Grateful Nation awards have been held since 2003, and I have been fortunate enough to attend just about all of them.
As part of its mission, the Washington, D.C.-based think tank, JINSA, focuses heavily on national security issues affecting the U.S. and Israel. The honoree of the evening was Congressman Mac Thornberry (R-TX), who received JINSA’s Distinguished Service Award. Congresswoman Kay Granger (R-TX), who introduced the Congressman, described his “steady leadership and influence in national security,” as well as recognition as a “pro to watch” by Politico. Congressman Thornberry is a senior member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and was one of the first in Congress to recognize the need to confront terrorism, even well before the September 11, 2001, attacks.
He said that Russia’s recent actions, a potential nuclear-armed Iran, and the ISIS terrorist threat serve to bolster the need to preserve a strong U.S. military and end unnecessary defense budget cuts. The entire speech can be watched online here.
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Also honored that evening was Tom Neumann, who passed away earlier this year. Tom served as Executive Director of JINSA for more than 20 years, and was greatly responsible for building JINSA into a vital and dynamic organization. Tom was a close friend of my family. The tribute to him was deeply moving and very appropriate.
JINSA’s Master of Ceremonies of the evening was once again Fox News’ Catherine Herridge, who was the recipient of Accuracy in Media’s 2013 Reed Irvine award for investigative journalism for her work on the terrorist attack on the diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya.
Those receiving the Grateful Nation awards are chosen by their respective branches of the military. The recipients of these awards are living tributes to the heroism exhibited daily by all of the men and women in our nation’s military.
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Regrettably, the media continue to ignore this very powerful and moving event, thereby overlooking the achievements of these outstanding Americans.
You can read the stories of these six military heroes, as written in the event program, below:
Staff Sergeant Adel M. Abudayeh – United States Marine Corps
Staff Sergeant Adel Abudayeh has repeatedly distinguished himself during his thirteen years of devoted service in the United States Marine Corps. He has deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom on three occasions and also supported Operation Enduring Freedom on two combat tours. While serving in Helmand Province, Afghanistan on December 3, 2009, nine days after being wounded in a prior combat engagement, his unit was engaged by intense machine gun fire from multiple positions in the vicinity of Haji Taj Mohammed village. He moved from his covered position, exposed himself to enemy fire, and directed an assault on an enemy machine gun. As a result, his lead team was able to clear the remaining enemy positions. When his unit was counter-attacked with sniper and machine gun fire, Staff Sergeant Abudayeh identified an enemy rocket propelled grenade team maneuvering on his unit’s flank. Staff Sergeant quickly requested close air support to neutralize the firing position. He then established a patrol base and conducted key leader engagements with local elders. Staff Sergeant Abudayeh’s efforts denied the enemy the ability to use the village as a safe-haven and allowed stabilization to take hold. For his extraordinary service to our nation, Staff Sergeant Abudayeh was decorated with a Bronze Star, three Purple Hearts, and three Navy Marine Corps Achievement medals.
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Staff Sergeant Abudayeh continues to inspire others as he fights through his multiple combat injuries while at Wounded Warrior Battalion East. He is the definition of a true combat leader and his devotion to the Marine Corp is unquestionable and inspirational.
Captain Daniel J. Beirne – United States Air Force
Captain Daniel J. Beirne distinguished himself as Flight Commander and Air Liaison Officer, 19th Air Support Operations Squadron, Fort Campbell, Kentucky. CPT Beirne has nine combat deployments for Operation Enduring Freedom, including eight as an AC-130 gunner, during which he participated in 129 combat sorties. During these sorties CPT Beirne’s AC-130 saved 40 pinned-down Special Operations Forces, prevented a 100-man unit from the 82nd Airborne from being overrun, enabled the capture of five Taliban in a Tier 1 direct action mission on the Afghanistan/Pakistan border, and killed twenty enemy combatants while rescuing an ambushed Marine team. On at least three occasions CPT Beirne identified and resolved inflight malfunctions, saving both the $160 million aircraft and its 13-crew members.
As a Joint Terminal Attack Controller, CPT Beirne controlled 393 missions over a nine-month period in support of the 101st Airborne Division, including seven named operations, four reconnaissance patrols, and one Category-1 MEDEVAC that saved a soldier’s life. He also executed A-10 and F-16 strikes against two Taliban IED teams that saved 217 U.S. and Afghan forces. For these achievements, CPT Beirne was awarded the Bronze Star, and his distinctive accomplishments reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.
Captain James Boston – United States Army
Captain James Boston, United States Army, is a combat tested warrior who has served his country proudly in Afghanistan in support of the Global War on Terrorism. While serving as cavalry platoon leader, 2nd Platoon, Cherokee Troop, 3rd Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment, in Afghanistan, Captain Boston’s platoon and their partnered Afghanistan National Army (ANA) platoon came under heavy enemy fire. While leading the counterattack, Captain Boston was in close proximity to two enemy-fired rocket propelled grenade blasts. The first blast threw Captain Boston into an irrigation ditch. Undeterred, Captain Boston continued leading his soldiers as they sought to locate and destroy the enemy. Throughout the fight Captain Boston’s poise allowed him to maintain situational awareness and command of his platoon. He continued directing direct and indirect fire onto the enemy positions. While under machine gun and RPG fire, the ANA platoon began to retreat in order to evacuate a wounded soldier. Captain Boston moved to their location and convinced the ANA commander to keep his platoon in place and fight alongside Captain Boston’s men. Shortly thereafter, Captain Boston was hit with a second RPG blast, which sent shrapnel into his left shin. After quickly evaluating his wounds, Captain Boston continued leading his platoon, again coordinating direct and indirect fires in order to break contact from the enemy.
For Captain Boston’s efforts that day, he was awarded an Army Commendation Medal for Valor and the Purple Heart. As a result of his leadership, Captain Boston’s company was awarded a Meritorious Unit Commendation during his last deployment.
Lieutenant Commander Andrew W. Boyden – United States Navy
Lieutenant Commander Andrew W. Boyden, United States Navy, distinguished himself with outstanding service to the U.S. Navy and the nation for the past 14 years. As a proven combat leader between 2010 and 2013, Lieutenant Commander Boyden deployed multiple times to Afghanistan, the Middle East, and the Horn of Africa as Intelligence Director (J2) of joint, combined special operations task forces prosecuting strategic GWOT targets. Under his expert leadership, his joint, interagency intelligence teams drove special operations forces’ successful execution of multiple combat operations, with hundreds of enemy captured or killed. For his efforts, he was awarded the Bronze Star. Lieutenant Commander Boyden aggressively led the national-level targeting strategy against Al-Qaida’s safe haven in Afghanistan in 2013. His experience and guidance were essential to the most robust winter kinetic targeting campaign in the task force’s history. His efforts directly resulted in multiple, successful kinetic strikes against senior Al-Qaida and enemy leaders in Afghanistan.
As a member of the Navy Information Dominance Forces Command Team, Lieutenant Commander Boyden provided expertise in Intelligence manpower, equipment, and training to nine separate subordinate units, encompassing 300 personnel deployed directly supporting the global war on terrorism worldwide. He directly ensured the fulfillment of over 100 Individual Augmentation assignments supporting the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Major Timothy J. Rott – United States Special Operations Command
Major Timothy J. Rott, United States Air Force, distinguished himself as Chief of Unmanned Operations and Predator/Reaper Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Planner, Aviation Tactics Evaluation Group at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. As the Command’s subject matter expert on remotely piloted aircraft, Major Rott oversaw rapid development of groundbreaking technology and game changing tactics, techniques, and procedures, saving countless lives on the battlefield. He provided leadership in support of U.S. efforts to identify, track, and resolve key individuals from hostile groups targeting U.S. citizens and interests. Major Rott served as an Operations Officer for the 27th Special Operations Wing for 41 days where he provided Command and Control for nine different aircraft operating around the globe that executed over 2,000 hours in support of operations within the U.S. and abroad.
Major Rott is also directly responsible for integrating and fielding unique capabilities for unmanned aircraft to meet the needs of Special Operations. The distinctive accomplishments of Major Rott reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.
Chief Boatswain’s Mate Douglas H. Schneider – United States Coast Guard
Chief Boatswain’s Mate Douglas H. Schneider, United States Coast Guard, displayed superior service in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. From August 2011 to July 2014 he was on active duty with the U.S. Coast Guard Training Team East and Special Missions Training Center. During this period he served as Lead Instructor for 1,200 U.S. Coast Guard personnel for service in Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and Afghanistan. Chief Boatswain’s Mate Schneider’s students included the crews of six U.S. Coast Guard Cutters assigned to Patrol Forces Southwest Asia, responsible for patrolling the high-risk waters of the Persian Gulf.
He also displayed exceptional service while deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom from November 2009 to November 2010. Then Petty Officer First Class Schneider, a Coast Guard Reservist, volunteered for active duty with the U.S. Coast Guard Redeployment Assistance and Inspection Detachment Team 11. He deployed to over 40 remote forward operating bases, combat outposts, and fire bases where his outstanding work ethic and attention to detail were instrumental in the U.S. Army’s ability to safely and securely transport hazardous materials and equipment out of the operating theatre.
Additionally, Chief Botswain’s Mate Schneider used his civilian paramedic skills to volunteer in the Air Force Theatre Hospital in Balad, Iraq and at the 31st Combat Support Hospital in Takrit, Iraq, providing emergency medical care and treatment to civilian and military casualties.
This is the fourth year I have documented this event. You can read the past three years stories of other American heroes here.
This article originally appeared at AIM.org and is reprinted here with permission.