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Project Hero: PFC Stephan C. Sanford, Distinguished Service Cross
Posted by: McQ on Saturday, July 14, 2007

The story of the hero we honor today is the stuff of legends. He refused to leave a wounded comrade, fought back when the enemy tried to overrun them and endured 5 gunshot wounds, 4 at close range in the effort. PFC Stephan C. Sanford was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his valor that day in Mosul, Iraq:
The President of the United States
Takes Pleasure in Presenting
The Distinguished Service Cross
Stephen C. Sanford
Private First Class, U.S. Army
For Services as Set Forth in the Following


For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action while serving with the 2d Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment, 172d Stryker Brigade Combat Team, on 19 November 2005, during combat operations against an armed enemy of the United States, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Private Sanford displayed extraordinary courage during the evacuation of casualties from a home in Mosul, Iraq, while under intense enemy fire. Although shot through the leg during his squad’s initial assault attempt, he accompanied his squad during their second assault. Once inside the house, he provided a heavy volume of suppressive fire while the casualties were evacuated. He continued to engage the enemy while escorting the wounded Soldiers from the house. He returned to the house a second time to provide vital covering fire and security for the final withdrawal of the casualties. When the last Soldier leaving the house was shot in the neck, Private Sanford, with complete disregard for his own safety, moved to the Soldier and began performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation. While attempting to revive the other Soldier, he was shot twice more in the back. Protecting the fallen Soldier, Private Sanford returned fire and killed an insurgent while receiving two more potentially fatal gunshot wounds. He continued to return devastating fire on the enemy while helping his wounded comrade until he was incapacitated by his own loss of blood. Private Sanford’s gallant deed was truly above and beyond the call of duty and is in keeping with the finest traditions of the military service, reflecting great credit upon himself, Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry, the United States Army, and the United States of America.
The Distinguished Service Cross is the equal of the Navy Cross and the Air Force Cross and the only award for valor which is higher is the Medal of Honor.

So let me review the events of that day one more time in case they weren't clear in the citation.

In late November, 2005, during an assault on a house in Mosul, Iraq filled with terrorists, PFC Stephen Sanford of Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment, was hit in the leg. Right then and there, folks, he had every right to sit out the upcoming fight and no one would have thought the less of him. But the house erupted with rifle fire and grenades, and Soldiers, his buddies, were hit and dying on the first floor of that house.

So even though he was wounded, shot in the leg, Sanford charged back in with his team, laying down suppressive fire while his team mates evacuated the wounded. There were so many, though, it required they go back into the house after the first group of wounded were safely extracted.

During the second evacuation of wounded, a bleeding Sanford again kept the terrorists at bay while his comrades evacuated the rest of the wounded. When the last soldier was leaving the house, a terrorist shot him. The soldier dropped to the floor - shot through the neck.

Sanford never hesitated. He ran back and began performing first aid, then CPR trying to keep the soldier alive.

The terrorists sensed Sanford's weak position and tried to gun him down. Now feature this. He’s performing CPR when they find him and they shoot him twice in the back while he’s trying to protect the wounded soldier with his body. Sanford turned and fought back, killing one terrorist, but while doing so was shot twice more. A total of 5 gunshot wounds during the engagement.

But Sanford never quit and continued fighting, trying to save his comrade. It was only when the loss of blood was too much that he lost consciousness...

General Peter Pace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff traveled to Ft. Wainright, AK to make the presentation of the DSC to PFC Stephan Sanford.

"I have had the distinct honor of participating in many award ceremonies," Pace told the audience of family, friends and fellow soldiers. "This is the first time I have ever had the honor of awarding a Distinguished Service Cross.

The chairman said soldiers such as Sanford would probably say he doesn't think he deserves the award. "If you asked them, they'd say they were doing their jobs," he said. "But if you asked their fellow soldiers, they'd say they went above and beyond the call of duty.

Pointing to the Wall of Heroes at Sanford’s unit headquarters, Pace said, "The soldiers on the wall behind me know what you have done. Your courage in combat made a difference. You deserve this award."

When read in a citation, Pace said, words like "extraordinary heroism" and "gallantry in action" don't capture what really happened that day. "But you know what happened, and so do your fellow soldiers in the unit," he said.

"Thank you for doing what soldiers have always done in combat — to serve, to serve well and to serve above and beyond what any of our fellow citizens would ask you to serve," he concluded.

Said Sanford about the actual pinning on of the medal by Gen. Pace: “As he was pinning the medal on me, his hands kinda shook a little bit, and he said ‘Sorry, this is the first time I’ve given one of these out.’ I said, ‘Don’t worry General, it’s my first one too.’”... (source: Blackfive)

On February 26th, the day PFC Sanford received his Distinguished Service Cross, the NY Sun ran a short editorial entitled “The Genuine Article”. It was the only main stream media mention of Sanford’s award that I found. In it the editors said:

“The award show everyone was watching last night was the Oscars. But amid all the celebration of actors playing heroes on the silver screen, let us take at least a moment to remember the genuine article — like Stephen Sanford of Company C, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment, United States Army.”

I couldn’t agree more. Stephan Sanford epitomizes what is fine and good about all of our soldiers. His concern and compassion for his comrades as well as his determination to ensure no one was left behind demonstrate the esprit our fighting men and women display on a daily basis. Although he was medically retired from the Army due to his wounds, his comrades will never forget what he did that day and he now passes into the realm of legend for his unflinching bravery and sacrifice.

PFC Stephan Sanford (Ret.) salutes Gen. Peter Pace at the ceremony at Ft. Wainright AK in which he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.


Previously featured in "Project Hero":

1LT Brian Chontosh: Navy Cross
PFC Daniel McClenney: Silver Star
PVT Dwayne Turner: Silver Star
MSG Robert Collins & SFC Danny Hall: Silver Star
SSG William Thomas Payne: Silver Star
CPT Christoper J. Bronzi: Silver Star
SSG Charles Good: Silver Star
SR AMN Jason D. Cunningham: Air Force Cross
PFC Jeremy Church: Silver Star
SGT Leigh Ann Hester: Silver Star
CSM Ron Riling: Silver Star
CPL Jason L. Dunham: Medal of Honor
PFC Joseph Perez: Navy Cross
COL James Coffman, Jr: Distinguished Service Cross
1LT Karl Gregory: Silver Star
1LT Brian Stann: Silver Star
MSG Anthony Pryor: Silver Star
TSGT John Chapman: Air Force Cross
MSG Sarun Sar: Silver Star
1LT Jeffery Lee: Silver Star
SGT James Witkowski: Silver Star
SGT Timothy Connors: Silver Star
PO2 Juan Rubio: Silver Star
SFC David Lowe: Silver Star
SGT Leandro Baptista: Silver Star
SPC Gerrit Kobes: Silver Star
SSG Anthony Viggiani: Navy Cross
LCPL Carlos Gomez-Perez: Silver Star
MSG Donald R. Hollenbaugh: Distinguished Service Cross
SGT Jarred L. Adams: Silver Star
1LT Thomas E Cogan: Silver Star
MAJ Mark E. Mitchell: Distinguished Service Cross
CPL Robert Mitchell Jr: Navy Cross
SGT David Neil Wimberg: Silver Star
CWO3 Christopher Palumbo: Silver Star
SGT Tommy Rieman: Silver Star
SCPO Britt Slabinski: Navy Cross
LT David Halderman: FDNY - 9/11/01
1LT Stephen Boada: Silver Star
1LT Neil Prakash: Silver Star
SFC Gerald Wolford: Silver Star
SSG Matthew Zedwick: Silver Star
LCPL Christopher Adlesperger: Navy Cross
SGT Joshua Szott: Silver Star
SPC Richard Ghent: Silver Star
CPL Mark Camp: Silver Star
The Veteran
CW3 Lori Hill: Distinguished Flying Cross
SGT Paul R. Smith: Medal of Honor
PFC Ross A. McGinnis: Silver Star
SGT Joseph E. Proctor: Silver Star
PFC Christopher Fernandez: Silver Star
MAJ James Gant: Silver Star
1SG John E. Mangels: Silver Star
Staff Sgt Michael Shropshire: Silver Star
Staff Sgt Stephen Achey: Silver Star
SFC Frederick Allen: Silver Star
PO2 (SEAL) Marc A. Lee: Silver Star


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.
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