The Soldiers You Never Hear About
Ask Americans to name some of our soldiers in Iraq and chances are they’ll readily identify Lynndie England, Charles Graner Jr., Jeremy Sivits, and Ivan “Chip” Frederick II. The three major networks have run over 200 stories on the detainee-abuse scandal, making the seven disgraced soldiers assigned to Abu Ghraib the most recognizable faces of American service in Iraq. The media’s line of attack against the war is revealed in its selective coverage of our soldiers: All villains and victims, no valor. Not one of the heroes decorated for bravery in Iraq has received a minute of coverage from ABC, CBS, or NBC. National newspapers have run hundreds of stories on the scandalous service of the Abu Ghraib seven, but have made no mention of another seven whose stories of service could be recounted with Steven Seagal cast in the lead.
In early May, Marine Captain Brian Chontosh, Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Perez, and Marine Sergeant Marco Martinez were awarded Navy Crosses for extraordinary heroism, an award second only to the Medal of Honor. Army Sergeant Gerald Wolford, Army Sergeant Major Michael Stack, Marine Staff Sergeant Adam Sikes, and Marine Corporal Armand McCormick — and 123 others — have been awarded Silver Stars for outstanding valor in combat. The stories of these courageous men represent the dedication of the tens of thousands of soldiers serving bravely and honorably in Iraq far better than the actions of a derelict nightshift in two isolated cell blocks.
On March 25, 2003, then-Lieutenant Brian R. Chontosh, 29, of Rochester, N.Y., was leading his platoon on Highway 1 south of Baghdad when his troops came under a coordinated ambush of mortars, rocket-propelled grenades, and automatic-weapons fire. With the road ahead blocked, Chontosh realized his men were caught in a kill zone. He ordered his driver to advance directly into the enemy trench. Chontosh leapt from his vehicle and began firing with his rifle and pistol. But his ammunition ran out. “With complete disregard for his safety,” according to the citation, “he twice picked up discarded enemy rifles and continued his ferocious attack…. When his audacious attack ended, he had cleared over 200 meters of the enemy trench, killing more than 20 enemy soldiers and wounding several others.”
After being awarded the Navy Cross, Captain Chontosh said, “I was just doing my job, I did the same thing every other Marine would have done, it was just a passion and love for my Marines.” Two of those Marines — Corporals Armand E. McCormick, 22, and Robert P. Kerman, 21 — received Silver Stars, the service’s third-highest award, for their “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity” in pressing the assault forward in that trench. Two days after the award ceremony at Camp Pendleton, McCormick redeployed to Iraq.
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