The Silver Star is awarded to a person who, while serving in any capacity with the U.S. Army, is cited for gallantry in action against an enemy of the United States while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force, or while serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party. The required gallantry, while of a lesser degree than that required for the Distinguished Service Cross, must nevertheless have been performed with marked distinction.
Reading what SGT Proctor did on that day in May in Iraq certainly rises to that lofty criteria. Gallantry performed with marked distinction shall forever be SGT Proctor's legacy, and those he saved will never forget his actions and his sacrifice:
Sgt. Joseph E. Proctor didn't stay hunkered down under cover when mortar shells started falling on the isolated observation post where he was helping train Iraqi soldiers.
Without any orders, the 38-year-old Indiana National Guardsman grabbed his helmet and his rifle and bolted out of the concrete barracks building into the open to provide first aid to wounded soldiers May 3 as small arms fire ratcheted up.
When a dump truck loaded with explosives broke through the east gate and headed for the center of the compound, he faced down the truck and kept shooting until the driver was dead, the bomb detonated, and Proctor was mortally wounded.
"Proctor saved countless lives that fateful day by stopping the driver before he could reach his objective," Maj. Gen. R. Martin Umbarger, the Indiana Guard's adjutant general, said during a Statehouse ceremony presenting Proctor's family with the Silver Star.
"This was not an act of impulse," said Gov. Mitch Daniels, who pinned the medal - the nation's third-highest military honor - on the chest of Proctor's wife, Beth. "Sgt. Proctor knew exactly the risk he was taking. He knew what he was doing, and he knew why."
About 75 people attended the ceremony, including soldiers who served with Proctor in Iraq and relatives who enlisted in the National Guard after his death.
Staff Sgt. Nick Miccarelli, who served in the 638th Aviation Battalion with Proctor, said he wasn't surprised at his comrade's action.
"We all knew what he was all about," Miccarelli said. "He was always out front on everything."
SGT Proctor was an Indiana National Guardsman from an incredible family:
He had been a National Guard member during the 1980s and went into the Army on active duty, serving during the 1991 Gulf War. After 10 years out of the military, he re-enlisted in the Guard in 2002, prompted by the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Following his death, his 44-year-old brother Eddie, his 18-year-old nephew Bradley and his own son, Joey, 21, enlisted in the Guard. None have yet been deployed to Iraq.
"This is a family of patriots," Daniels said.
Joey Proctor said the day was not a time to be sad, because his father had given his life for his country.
"I understand what he was doing, and I understand why he was doing it," he said, standing at attention and speaking softly in the glare of television lights.
Eddie Proctor, who served in the military four years two decades ago and re-enlisted this year, was proud of his brother.
"I hope I can be every bit of the man he was over there," he said. "It's going to take some big shoes to fill."
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.