Project Hero: Senior Airman Jason D. Cunningham, Air Force Cross Posted by: McQ
on Friday, January 13, 2006
The Air Force Cross is the 2nd highest award the Air Force awards for valor in combat, 2nd only to the Medal of Honor. This week's hero is Senior Airman Jason D. Cunningham who fell in Afghanistan. Cunningham was a Air Force Pararescue medic, or "PJ" as they're known, part of an elite special operations Air Force unit. His story is one of extreme bravery, even in the face of his own impending death.
CITATION TO ACCOMPANY THE AWARD OF
THE AIR FORCE CROSS (POSTHUMOUS)
JASON D. CUNNINGHAM
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Title 10, Section 8742, U.S.C., awards the Air Force Cross to Senior Airman Jason D. Cunningham for extraordinary heroism in military operations against an opposing armed force while serving as a pararescueman near the village of Marzak in the Paktia Province of Afghanistan on 4 March 2002. On that proud day, Airman Cunningham was the primary Air Force Combat Search and Rescue medic assigned to a Quick Reaction Force tasked to recover two American servicemen evading capture in austere terrain occupied by massed Al Qaida and Taliban forces. Shortly before landing, his MH-47E helicopter received accurate rocket-propelled grenade and small arms fire, severely disabling the aircraft and causing it to crash land. The assault force formed a hasty defense and immediately suffered three fatalities and five critical casualties. Despite effective enemy fire, and at great risk to his own life, Airman Cunningham remained in the burning fuselage of the aircraft in order to treat the wounded. As he moved his patients to a more secure location, mortar rounds began to impact within fifty feet of his position. Disregarding this extreme danger, he continued the movement and exposed himself to enemy fire on seven separate occasions. When the second casualty collection point was also compromised, in a display of uncommon valor and gallantry, Airman Cunningham braved an intense small arms and rocket-propelled grenade attack while repositioning the critically wounded to a third collection point. Even after he was mortally wounded and quickly deteriorating, he continued to direct patient movement and transferred care to another medic. In the end, his distinct efforts led to the successful delivery of ten gravely wounded Americans to life-saving medical treatment. Through his extraordinary heroism, superb airmanship, aggressiveness in the face of the enemy, and in the dedication of his service to his country, Senior Airman Cunningham reflected the highest credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.
Cunningham's brother-in-law, Jared Marquis, wrote the following poem for this hero:
Please Don't stand and Weep Those men I had to save Not because of Courage or because I'm Brave
Not because of Orders or because it was my Dream I did it for my Brothers I did it for the Team
So Please Don't weep for me for all I had to give I did it for a reason "So That Others May Live"
PROJECT HERO is an ongoing attempt to highlight the valor of our military as they fight in both Iraq and Afghanistan. We constantly hear the negative and far to little of the positive and inspiring stories coming out of those countries. This is one small attempt to rectify that. If you know of a story of valor you'd like to see highlighted here (published on Saturday), please contact us. And we'd appreciate your link so we can spread the word.