Staff Sergeant Ryan Pitts will be awarded the nation’s highest military honor, the Medal of Honor, on July 21, 2014. In July 2008, Pitts was seriously injured while defending a base single-handedly after his comrades died fighting an estimated 200 enemy combatants in Afghanistan.
Here is what you need to know:
1. Pitts Was Injured in the Battle of Wanat
Shortly after 4 a.m. on July 13, while standing guard at an observation post, Pitts came under fire by machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and hand grenades. During this initial exchange of gunfire, two paratroopers with Pitts were killed, and he took grenade shrapnel in both his legs and in his left arm.
2. He Held off Around 200 Enemy Combatants When 9 Comrades Died
Bleeding heavily from his wounds, Pitts realized about an hour into the gunfight that he was alone in his position. Pitts continued fighting by holding onto live grenades for extra seconds before tossing grenades over the makeshift walls to ensure the insurgents couldn’t breach the wall or throw the grenades back.
Despite the traumatic blood loss, Pitts also radioed helicopter gunships and other soldiers precise locations of combatants.
The soldiers killed in the battle were 1st Lt. Jonathan Brostrom, Cpl. Jonathan Ayers, Cpl. Jason Bogars, Cpl. Jason Hovater, Cpl. Matthew Phillips, Cpl. Pruitt Rainey, Cpl. Gunnar Zwilling and Spc. Sergio Abad.
3. The Battle Has Been Held Up as an Example of the Army’s Negligence
In the video above, a CNN investigation into the Battle of Wanat, you can see the soldiers digging in by hand around stone walls because the military contractor carrying fortification supplies never showed up.
According to the Washington Post, the soldiers arrived with limited supplies and amid reports that an insurgent attack was imminent. General Petraeus ordered an investigation of the incident in September 2009 after vocal concerns from the families that the military had left the men too vulnerable. The report found the officers were “derelict in the performance of their duties through neglect or culpable inefficiency.”
4. Pitts Left the Army 2009
After ongoing medical problems related to his injuries from the Battle of Wanat, Pitts left the military in 2009. He returned to his hometown of Nashua, New Hampshire, where he lives with his wife and young son, Lucas.
According to the recent interview in the Army Times, Pitts now works in business development.
5. He’s the 9th Living Medal of Honor Winner From Iraq & Afghanistan
The White House reports that Pitts will become in the ninth living recipient of the Medal of Honor from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Recently, Marine Kyle Carpenter was given the Medal of Honor for protecting his comrade from a grenade that landed near them on an Afghanistan rooftop.