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208 Silver Stars
Posted by: McQ on Thursday, November 17, 2005

Silver Stars, as in the award for valor. It's the third highest award for valor. Did you have any idea that there had been 208 of them awarded for action during Afghanistan and Iraq?

I'm sure, however, that you know within 10 or so how many of our soldiers have been killed there, don't you? With the relentless body count from the media it's rather hard to miss.

But the other side of that, the bravery, the heroes? Well apparently Silver Stars and the valor they entail just doesn't measure up when it comes to the news cycle. Apparently, when it has the option to report on the drip, drip, drip of daily casualties, this sort of story just doesn't make the cut:
On Dec. 3, 2003, 35 Iraqi insurgents ambushed U.S. Army Sgt. Tommy Rieman and his seven-man squad near Abu Ghraib prison, firing AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades at the team's unarmored humvees. Rieman returned fire as his driver sped out of the kill zone. Away from the ambush, the squad started to assess their injuries only to come under another attack by 15 fighters. Taking cover behind his humvee, Rieman launched grenades and emptied his magazine clip. When the firefight ended, Rieman called in a medevac helicopter. One squad member lost a leg to an enemy grenade; another had been shot in his buttocks. Rieman himself took bullets in the arm and the chest and shrapnel in his chest, head, and legs. But the ambush had been repelled, and a total of 35 insurgents had been killed in the two engagements. To the Army, Rieman's actions embodied the warrior ethos of a true hero: accomplish the mission, save your soldiers, and kill the enemy.
That's from US News & World Report, and they don't even get it all right.

A much better description of the action SGT Rieman was in is found here.

SGT Rieman was awarded one of those 208 Silver Stars, and I don't know about you but I find his story to be riviting and newsworthy.

But, as USN&WR mentions, his story essentially went nowhere:
Although Rieman, now 25, received a Silver Star for his actions that day, there was little public recognition other than an Army press release and a passing mention of the award on CNN last summer. A LexisNexis database search turns up no other press mentions of Rieman's heroism under fire.
USN&WR says the Army is planning on doing something about that. Now you may not agree with their method of changing this lack of visibility concerning the heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan, but it is good to see that they want to make their stories known. Obviously, given their methods, they have come to the conclusion that it isn't going to happen in the MSM.

For those of us in the blogosphere who support our troops and want to see their stories of heroism receive the proper exposure, it's important that we seek them out and, if the MSM won't do it, give them as much visiblity as we can (and which they deserve). We may not be the MSM, but there are a lot of us and this is worth the effort.

COL Kenneth Tovo speaking of the award of the Silver Star to three members of his 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne):
"These characteristics of heroism are timeless and universal. A Spartan hoplite, a Roman centurion, an American Continental and a D-Day paratrooper would all recognize, and respect, the action of the men that we decorate today. These qualities run like a common thread through the actions of every hero throughout history. The men who were awarded today epitomize the ideals of the Soldier, and of the warrior."
We need to make sure those qualities get the exposure they deserve because they tell an important story ... a story that isn't getting told as it should.

So link, cut-and-paste, spread, whatever, but tell SGT Rieman's story. And tell the story of any other hero you come across ... and email me a copy ... I'll post it or link to it. Call it "Project Hero", call it their just dues. But above all, just do it.
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Previous Comments to this Post 

I must be missing something.

According to the clip, Rieman’s ’valor’ consisted of shooting back when his unit came under fire. I hope that the clip left a lot of the details out, as the standard for "the required gallantry... performed with marked distinction" ought to be greater than simply shooting back at the enemy, especially while high-tailing it away from the enemy and while taking cover behind a Humvee after being ambushed a second time. After all, isn’t firing one’s weapon at the enemy the least we ought to expect of our troops?

And, as far as the claim that 35 enemy were killed in the clash, not to belittle Rieman or his squad, but something doesn’t add up. Our guys were ambushed twice, the second time by 15 insurgents. Assuming all 15 were killed, this means 20 additional insurgents had to have been killed during the first ambush. Yet, according to the clip, our troops didn’t stick around and fight at the first ambush site, but took off. Is it possible that 20 insurgents, who would presumably have been fired from protected/concealed positions, could have been killed by guys shooting out the back windows?
Written By: steve
URL: http://
He did do a LITTLE more than shoot back. Note "Rieman himself took bullets in the arm and the chest and shrapnel in his chest, head, and legs." Plus, two others of his unit were wounded, seriously, so counting his wonds about 50% of his unit suffered wounds. Are you trolling or are of the opinion of my monastic Delta friend, who once said of Ranger School, "It was good training."? There IS the old saw, "A hero is a Coward who got cornered." Rieman did try to withdraw but the second ambush forced his hand...
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
Joe, Steve: the problem wasn’t what Rieman did, it was the way USN&WR reported it.

Read this description. It gives a much more detailed and tactically coherent description than the USNews description.

Steve has a point. I’ve revised the article to include the above link. Thanks for the catch Steve.

Written By: McQ
Yet, according to the clip, our troops didn’t stick around and fight at the first ambush site ...

They were right in leaving the area, they were a recon unit (recon units aren’t supposed to engage the enemy unless specifically ordered to do so - like in a counter recon battle).

Written By: McQ
McQ: thanks for the follow up. Makes me feel better.
Written By: steve
URL: http://
There’s nothing new about ignoring valor and honor. I earned a Silver Star on January 11, 1969 for saving a boat and 5 wounded crewmen by clearing a fire zone. It and $2.30 (before tax) will buy me a Regular at Starbucks. But I’ll tell you what, if the surrender demo-monkeys win this domestic debate you’ll be bowing to Mecca 5 times a day or dead.
Written By: RiverRat
URL: http://
There’s nothing new about ignoring valor and honor.

I know that RiverRat. But you know what, I’ve got a way, a small way granted, but at least a way, to do something about that.

As for your award, congratulations and you, of course, know you have both my respect and thanks for what you did as well as my humble thanks for your service.
Written By: McQ

The point I was trying to make is that starting with WWII, most, but not all, awards for valor in combat have been for preserving the lives of shipmates and civilians. Any Study of Bronze Star and above citations from Vietnam and, I suspect, Iraq support this point.
Written By: RiverRat
URL: http://
i was at a restaurant 2 days ago and saw 2 service men there eating. so i went over and told them thank you for they do. and i paid for their lunch.

not much compared to all they do...but hopefully enough for them to feel appreciated and maybe tell others so they will feel that way also.
Written By: smallmouse
URL: http://
so i went over and told them thank you for they do. and i paid for their lunch.

Good for you ... and thank you.
Written By: McQ
as a silver star recipient myself i feel this citation is either lacking detail or the person they speek of should not have been awarde this very prestige team of 8 was ambushed in fallujha and instead of hightailing out i took my guys and turned into the ambush and we ended up with over 60 insurgents kia and i took 0 casulties with a team of 8 that was a two hour firefight....and i dont even think i deserved this medal..... cpl. waldron
Written By: wyatt
URL: http://

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