Staff Sgt. Ronald Shurer II, who was an Army medic with the 3rd Special Forces Group Airborne who received the Medal of Honor for his actions in Afghanistan in 2008, died at the age of 41 from lung cancer.
Shurer, born in Fairbanks, Alaska, grew up in Puyallup, Washington, graduated from Rogers High School in 1997 and graduated from Washington State University with a degree in business economics in 2001.
He enlisted in the Army, and in April 2008 in Afghanistan, he helped stabilize and rescue more than a dozen injured soldiers through a haze of bullets from enemy fire before returning to the fight. After his honorable discharge in 2009, Shurer joined the Secret Service.
In 2017, he was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. He died May 14.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Shurer Quickly Rose Through the Ranks
But both of Shurer’s parents had served in the Armed Forces and his grandfather and great-grandfather had also served; Shurer was not going to give up. He was accepted on his second try and became a medic at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. In 2006, he was promoted from sergeant to staff sergeant. In 2004, he was selected for the Special Forces qualification course and passed.
He served with the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force in the winter of 2007. In his second deployment to Afghanistan, he was deployed to Shok Valley in a mission that Business Insider described as capturing or killing high-value targets.
2. Shurer Earned the Medal of Honor After Aiding Several Soldiers While Enduring Heavy Gunfire
According to the U.S. Army, Shurer’s unit “was on a mission to capture or kill high-value targets of the Hezeb Islami al Gulbadin in Shok Valley, Afghanistan” on April 6, 2008.
As the team moved through the valley it ran into sniper fire, rocket-propelled grenades and machine-gun fire and was forced “into a defensive fighting position.” At the same time, Shurer learned that “his forward-assault element was also pinned down at another location” with multiple casualties.
“With disregard for his safety, Shurer moved quickly through a hail of bullets toward the base of the mountain to reach the pinned-down forward element,” the Army reported. “While on the move, Shurer stopped to treat a wounded teammate’s neck injury caused by shrapnel from a recent RPG blast.”
He helped evacuate soldiers, “carrying and lowering the wounded down the steep mountainside, using his body to shield them from enemy fire and shrapnel. After he loaded the wounded in an evacuation helicopter, Shurer went back up the mountain to fight,” KIRO 7 reported.
Shurer was on the mountain for six hours and killed several insurgents, Business Insider reported. Shurer provided aid to four Army soldiers and 10 Afghan troops, despite being wounded in his arm and sniper fire hitting his helmet.
“It felt like I’d been hit in the head with a baseball bat,” Shurer said later.
In September 2008, Shurer was awarded a Silver Star. On October 1, 2019, he was awarded the Medal of Honor at a White House ceremony. Shurer credited the entire team with making everyone’s survival through the attack possible.
Other awards he received include the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, Army Commendation Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal with Bronze Clasp and two Loops, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with two Bronze Service Stars, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and NATO Medal.
3. Shurer Was a Father & Husband
Shurer was married to Miranda Lentz. Lentz, a West Virginian, was a graduate of the Illinois Institute of Technology and was working on a graduate degree in education from Virginia’s James Madison University. She met Shurer through a dating site while he was at Fort Bragg. He drove five hours to Virginia to go to the movies, Military.com reported.
Shurer proposed in June 2006, soon after he learned about his deployment, and Lentz said yes.
Lentz had been with him since before the actions that earned him the Medal of Honor and his move to the Secret Service. She was even in the car with him when he received the update that his cancer had spread.
Lentz told Military.com that even though hearing about the cancer diagnosis was difficult, they were determined to beat it:
One of the things he taught me early in our relationship from his Special Forces training: In their training, you don’t look at the obstacles, you look at the path through or the way out. To me, that’s like, ‘What is the next best step we can take?’ That’s what we do every day. … We take it one step at a time and just keep figuring out the best path forward and the best options.
The couple had two sons: Cameron, 12, and Tyler, 8.
4. Shurer Remained Driven to Service Even After Leaving the Army
Shurer received an honorable discharge and left the Army in May 2009, a little over a year after his outstanding day of service. He applied to the FBI and to the Secret Service and chose the Secret Service because “the Secret Service culture just really spoke to me. I’d be standing on the sidelines of history,” he told Military.com.
He started with the Secret Service in September 2009, working on criminal investigations of credit card fraud and other cases in Phoenix, Arizona. He and his family relocated to Washington, D.C., in 2014 when Shurer became part of a special Secret Service’s tactical team charged with protecting the president.
While there, Army Times reported that Shurer attended events in D.C. and Fayetteville, North Carolina, to help raise funds for a charity, the Special Forces Charitable Trust, that supports Green Beret families.
In the summer of 2016, Shurer started experiencing hip pain, which he tried to manage. Then in February of 2017, he finally got an MRI and doctors found a lesion on his hip.
“I’ve been fighting it ever since,” Shurer said, according to Military.com.
5. Shurer’s Cancer Had Metastasized
When Shurer received his stage 4 lung cancer diagnosis, doctors told him the cancer had spread to other organs.
Shurer documented his experience with cancer through his Instagram account, which he told Military.com was meant to inspire others. “I think there’s a lot of value in just sharing these things that are a little bit scary, a little bit nerve-wracking. It affects so many people’s lives out there,” he told them.
Shurer was being treated by a team of specialists at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, and he also received care in Washington, D.C.
From his Twitter updates, it seemed that Shurer’s condition had been worsening.
On April 30, he tweeted that it had been hard to breathe and his home oxygen wasn’t helping much.
Then on May 13, he wrote about an attempted operation: “Very upset to write this…. been unconscious for a week. They are going to try and take it out in a couple hours, they can’t tell me if it will work.”
He died the next day.