(WASHINGTON) — Former Army Staff Sgt. Clinton Romesha attributes the acts of bravery that earned him the highest military award given for valor in action to his team — not him alone.
President Obama presented him with the Medal of Honor at the White House on Monday.
“It means a lot of people did their jobs for that day,” Romesha told ABC’s Jonathan Karl of the significance of him receiving the award. “Battle buddies came together. People were looking out for each other, and just knowing we had a job to do and a tough fight. When you could look to your left and to your right, you counted on those guys, just like they counted on you, and that’s what it means.”
Romesha, 31, is the fourth living medal recipient to have participated in the wars in Afghanistan or Iraq.
In October 2009, his band of 53 American soldiers faced an attack from hundreds of members of the Taliban at their outpost in the mountains of Afghanistan near the Pakistan border. Though they were vastly outnumbered, Romesha said it was their Army training that carried them through that day.
“We had the greatest soldiers. The best trained. I mean, that American spirit, that warrior spirit: that’s in our guys,” Romesha said. “They were outnumbered that day. They were.”
With bullets flying around him and taking fire himself — Romesha was wounded by shrapnel from a rocket-propelled grenade — the former non-commissioned officer said he relied on his training and thought only of the team he led.
“Why would you be thinking about anything else? They’re right there with you. Take care of them just like they’re taking care of you,” Romesha said.
Looking to the future, Romesha described the battle that earned him the military’s highest honor as just “one moment in life,” with many more to come.
What are his hopes and dreams for those moments?
“To watch the kids grow up. To be that dad and father that they’ve really missed out on the 11 years that I was in, you know, and to watch them grow up and be successful,” Romesha said. “I mean it’s what every father and husband wants.”
In April 2011, Romesha left the military and rejoined his wife, Tammy, and three kids, who now live in Minot, N.D.
“I can’t even tell you what it’s like to know he’s back,” Tammy told ABC News Monday with tears in her eyes. “He’s my rock.”
Romesha predicted his fallen comrades would be in the room with him in spirit.
“They’ll be there,” he said of the eight U.S. soldiers who perished beside him that day. “I know it.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
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