Video: Army Medal of Honor recipient breaks gavel at New York Stock Exchange

posted at 9:21 pm on July 23, 2014 by Mary Katharine Ham

This is, of course, not the act of superhuman strength and intrepidity that earned him the nation’s gratitude and highest military honor, but it is a clip that’s getting him a second round of media coverage. And, I’m always glad when someone of the caliber of former Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Pitts gets as much attention as possible. More on that in a second.

First, though, Pitts’ citation, for holding off a huge Taliban force in Afghanistan in 2008 on his own and severely wounded at the Battle of Wanat:

Early that morning, while Sergeant Pitts was providing perimeter security at Observation Post Topside, a well-organized Anti-Afghan Force consisting of over 200 members initiated a close proximity sustained and complex assault using accurate and intense rocket-propelled grenade, machine gun and small arms fire on Wanat Vehicle Patrol Base. An immediate wave of rocket-propelled grenade rounds engulfed the Observation Post wounding Sergeant Pitts and inflicting heavy casualties. Sergeant Pitts had been knocked to the ground and was bleeding heavily from shrapnel wounds to his arm and legs, but with incredible toughness and resolve, he subsequently took control of the observation post and returned fire on the enemy. As the enemy drew nearer, Sergeant Pitts threw grenades, holding them after the pin was pulled and the safety lever was released to allow a nearly immediate detonation on the hostile forces. Unable to stand on his own and near death because of the severity of his wounds and blood loss, Sergeant Pitts continued to lay suppressive fire until a two-man reinforcement team arrived. Sergeant Pitts quickly assisted them by giving up his main weapon and gathering ammunition all while continually lobbing fragmentary grenades until these were expended. At this point, Sergeant Pitts crawled to the northern position radio and described the situation to the command post as the enemy continued to try and isolate the Observation Post from the main Patrol Base. With the enemy close enough for him to hear their voices and with total disregard for his own life, Sergeant Pitts whispered in radio situation reports and conveyed information that the Command Post used to provide indirect fire support. Sergeant Pitts’ courage, steadfast commitment to the defense of his unit and ability to fight while seriously wounded prevented the enemy from overrunning the observation post and capturing fallen American soldiers, and ultimately prevented the enemy from gaining fortified positions on higher ground from which to attack Wanat Vehicle Patrol Base.

The Army’s Medal of Honor page features an interactive battlescape and audio of Pitts.

Pitts is now the ninth living veteran to receive the Medal of Honor for his actions in the post-9/11 theaters of Iraq and Afghanistan. Nine other Americans died that day as Pitts held off more than 100 fighters:

“Soldiers from Chosen Company were setting up an outpost in the rugged hills near the Pakistan border. Suddenly they came under attack by more than a hundred Taliban fighters.

“Mike Denton and the other soldiers saw much of the fire was focused on Chosen Company’s separate observation post or OP, set a hundred yards away on a hillside.

“Ryan Pitts was in that OP and the only one left alive. He tossed grenades, helped call in airstrikes, and comforted the dying. Denton and others eventually were able to come to Pitts’ aid.

“‘Him staying up there and holding that position definitely kept the day from getting a lot worse,’ Denton said.

“Still, the attack was one of the worst of the Afghan war: Nine Americans killed, 27 wounded.”

Pitts, as all of these recent recipients have been, was mindful of those lost in the battle for which he was honored. He spoke of them at the ceremony at the White House and declined to take questions until a later ceremony at the Pentagon.

“The real heroes are the nine men who made the ultimate sacrifice so the rest of us could return home,” Pitts said quietly, a reference to the nine soldiers who died defending Observation Post Topside beside him in the summer of 2008 in Wanat, Afghanistan.

“It is their names, not mine that I want people to know.”

“Spc. Sergio Abad, Cpl. Jonathan Ayers, Cpl. Jason Bogar, 1st Lt. Jonathan Brostrom, Sgt. Israel Garcia, Cpl. Jason Hovater, Cpl. Matthew Phillips, Cpl. Pruitt Rainey, and Cpl. Gunnar Zwilling,” he read, and in an homage to Chosen company of the 503rd parachute infantry regiment, added: “Thank you. The Chosen few.”

Pitts spoke later about the responsibility the Medal of Honor brings with it. For years, the medal was only awarded posthumously in part for fear of how the actions of living recipients might reflect on the award, but the Pentagon has since abandoned that overabundance of caution.

Pitts said that he and Army Sgt. Kyle White, who received the Medal of Honor in May, have talked several times about the responsibility that goes with the Medal of Honor.

In fact, it’s White who first let Pitts know that a call from the White House was coming to formally let him know he would receive the award.“More or less, it was rumors for a long time that it had been upgraded to a Medal of Honor,” Pitts said. “And it was when Kyle White was going through his preparations that I received a phone call from the Pentagon. Kyle texted me and said, ‘What’s your number? They’re going to be calling you soon.’ ”

Pitts said he is still getting a handle on what life will be like under the spotlight. Speaking with other recent recipients, he said, he has determined that while there is a lot of responsibility that goes with the award, he controls his own future.

“It’s kind of hard to judge right now,” he said of what causes he may champion or roles he may take on. “I’m taking it a day at a time, and I don’t want to bite off more than I can chew. For me, my family comes first, and this responsibility is very important to me. I want to have a professional life, but it is a mix of the two.”

As always, it is a pleasure and privilege to be able to honor these men while they are still with us. Thank you, Sgt. Pitts.

And, as if we didn’t already know how strong he is:


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Thor. The manly kind.

DontDroneMeBro on July 23, 2014 at 9:22 PM

Such men!

It must be a humbling thing to earn the CMH.

I suspect for some it is a terrible burden to honored – when so many are lost during the honored act.

Such men

jake-the-goose on July 23, 2014 at 9:24 PM

There’s strong-and then there’s ‘Army Strong’.

annoyinglittletwerp on July 23, 2014 at 9:31 PM

Awesome!

joekenha on July 23, 2014 at 9:31 PM

In AWE of such brave and special men. Thank you Ryan Pitts for your courage and strength.

bettycooper on July 23, 2014 at 9:33 PM

I guess this was the first non-metrosexual that used it.

Blake on July 23, 2014 at 9:34 PM

The look on his face was priceless

Cindy Munford on July 23, 2014 at 9:34 PM

Foreshadowing omen of the coming U.S. financial collapse?

/Perhaps I was too into “Breaking Bad”

ShainS on July 23, 2014 at 9:35 PM

“The real heroes are the nine men who made the ultimate sacrifice so the rest of us could return home,” Pitts said quietly, a reference to the nine soldiers who died defending Observation Post Topside beside him in the summer of 2008 in Wanat, Afghanistan.

“It is their names, not mine that I want people to know.”

.
Mary Katherine Hamm?

I know you are really busy and already have a LOT on your plate.

However, you also have a public platform and I don’t think you would have any reservations about quietly putting forward this suggestion.

It is time to build a memorial in Washington, D.C. to honor ALL of the Medal of Honor recipients.

They are the best examples I know of showing how far free men and women will go to defend their fellow military personnel and the principles of this country.

PolAgnostic on July 23, 2014 at 9:36 PM

He broke the stock market.

Damn.

I’m divesting immediately.

Diluculo on July 23, 2014 at 9:36 PM

This is great…

OmahaConservative on July 23, 2014 at 9:36 PM

jake-the-goose on July 23, 2014 at 9:24 PM

.
With all due respect, jake – it is the Medal of Honor.

Not the CMH as it has frequently but erroneously been referred to over the years.

PolAgnostic on July 23, 2014 at 9:38 PM

If it’s a protest against Fed’s monetary policy, I’m on his side. Ah heck, I want to be on his side n any case.

Rix on July 23, 2014 at 9:47 PM

A real man.

Thank you, Sargent Pitts.

ConstantineXI on July 23, 2014 at 9:47 PM

I’m actually really glad Soldiers still with us are getting honored in such a way. Posthumous shouldn’t be the only way.

wolly4321 on July 23, 2014 at 9:48 PM

American women faint for want of such men. Or for such men for our daughters as the case may be.

Pajama boy, you suck. Go raise awareness at the coffee shop with your liberal whiner friends. Me, I’m gonna take heart at just the thought of Sgt. Pitts.

Grace_is_sufficient on July 23, 2014 at 9:50 PM

Ryan Pitts was in that OP and the only one left alive. He tossed grenades, helped call in airstrikes, and comforted the dying. Denton and others eventually were able to come to Pitts’ aid.

American Badass.
Wow.

Doc Holliday on July 23, 2014 at 9:50 PM

Salute

Grunt on July 23, 2014 at 9:55 PM

perhaps a metaphor for jingoistic military adventurism breaking the economy?

ThisIsYourBrainOnKoch on July 23, 2014 at 9:57 PM

ThisIsYourBrainOnKoch on July 23, 2014 at 9:57 PM

Jealous much.

annoyinglittletwerp on July 23, 2014 at 10:00 PM

If you look closely at the hammer you can just see the label on the side: “Union Made”.

Bishop on July 23, 2014 at 10:02 PM

Duty, honor, courage. To some, it’s more than just a slogan. Would that those we elect to serve this nation understood the distinction.

Dan_NV on July 23, 2014 at 10:03 PM

It is time to build a memorial in Washington, D.C. to honor ALL of the Medal of Honor recipients.

They are the best examples I know of showing how far free men and women will go to defend their fellow military personnel and the principles of this country.

PolAgnostic on July 23, 2014 at 9:36 PM

.
Exclude all of the recipients who got the CMA for their part in the Wounded Knee massacre, and I’ll agree with that.

listens2glenn on July 23, 2014 at 10:11 PM

“The real heroes are the nine men who made the ultimate sacrifice so the rest of us could return home,” Pitts said quietly, a reference to the nine soldiers who died defending Observation Post Topside beside him in the summer of 2008 in Wanat, Afghanistan.

“It is their names, not mine that I want people to know.”

“Spc. Sergio Abad, Cpl. Jonathan Ayers, Cpl. Jason Bogar, 1st Lt. Jonathan Brostrom, Sgt. Israel Garcia, Cpl. Jason Hovater, Cpl. Matthew Phillips, Cpl. Pruitt Rainey, and Cpl. Gunnar Zwilling,” he read, and in an homage to Chosen company of the 503rd parachute infantry regiment, added: “Thank you. The Chosen few.”

The epitome of honor, integrity and class.

Mitoch55 on July 23, 2014 at 10:11 PM

Exclude all of the recipients who got the CMA for their part in the Wounded Knee massacre, and I’ll agree with that.

listens2glenn on July 23, 2014 at 10:11 PM

.
CMA?

PolAgnostic on July 23, 2014 at 10:18 PM

Exclude all of the recipients who got the CMA for their part in the Wounded Knee massacre, and I’ll agree with that.

listens2glenn on July 23, 2014 at 10:11 PM

.
CMA?

PolAgnostic on July 23, 2014 at 10:18 PM

.
( s i g h ) . . . . . “A” = “H”

listens2glenn on July 23, 2014 at 10:28 PM

( s i g h ) . . . . . “A” = “H”

listens2glenn on July 23, 2014 at 10:28 PM

.
Just checking …

… I mean Dick Clark was round FOREVER … but I don’t remember the Country Music Association awards before I graduated from high school.

;->

Yep, I’ll agree – anyone who got a MoH for slaughtering Indians should be expunged from the record.

PolAgnostic on July 23, 2014 at 10:41 PM

There’s strong-and then there’s ‘Army Strong’.

annoyinglittletwerp on July 23, 2014 at 9:31 PM

LOL

+10!

Dr. ZhivBlago on July 23, 2014 at 11:04 PM

You don’t need my thanks, Sgt. Pitts, but a grateful nation stands to salute you. Yes, some heroes were lost that day and in that fight, but sleep well knowing that you saved so many of your other brothers, and so many of us sitting over here, just watching selflessness and courage and heroism from the sidelines.

Courage, Honor, and Valor are just so many words for far too many, but thank you for reminding us, once again, that they are real and living things, far beyond speeches and rhetoric and teleprompters.

Thank you again, and may nothing but the best come to you and your family for the years to come.

TXUS on July 23, 2014 at 11:32 PM

( s i g h ) . . . . . “A” = “H”

listens2glenn on July 23, 2014 at 10:28 PM

I am repeatedly, perpetually surprised at how many think the correct term is “Congressional Medal of Honor.”

Lolo on July 24, 2014 at 12:11 AM

Let us hope, a few years hence, our CMH hero doesn’t check into a VA hospital and be unceremoniously dumped out on the street like the defeated fighter in ‘Kick Boxer’.

MaiDee on July 24, 2014 at 1:21 AM

perhaps a metaphor for jingoistic military adventurism breaking the economy?

ThisIsWhat’sLeftOfYourBrainOnSoros on July 23, 2014 at 9:57 PM

You’ll happily be voting for the presumptive Dem pResidential nominee in 2016. As a totally unqualified Junior US Senator, she signed off on Chimpy Bush’s War.

F-

Del Dolemonte on July 24, 2014 at 1:28 AM

Ryan Pitts was born in Lowell, MA, and now lives in Nashua NH. Those cities are only miles apart. Please come up to New England and spend your money this weekend on food and swag at the otherwise free Lowell Folk Festival!

Del Dolemonte on July 24, 2014 at 1:32 AM

“It is their names, not mine that I want people to know.”

“Spc. Sergio Abad, Cpl. Jonathan Ayers, Cpl. Jason Bogar, 1st Lt. Jonathan Brostrom, Sgt. Israel Garcia, Cpl. Jason Hovater, Cpl. Matthew Phillips, Cpl. Pruitt Rainey, and Cpl. Gunnar Zwilling,” he read, and in an homage to Chosen company of the 503rd parachute infantry regiment, added: “Thank you. The Chosen few.”

A true American hero .

EnglishRogue on July 24, 2014 at 5:19 AM

The type of person that normally does the type of thing that warrant the Medal of Honor, normally possesses this brand of humility.

Salutes your way SSG Pitts.

hawkdriver on July 24, 2014 at 6:24 AM

Foreshadowing the imminent coup.

Tsar of Earth on July 24, 2014 at 8:22 AM

Thank you Sergeant Pitts for your service, courage, and gracious regard for your fallen comrades.
Our nation scarcely deserves those such as you.
May God love you, and watch over you and your family.

orangemtl on July 24, 2014 at 9:17 AM

I hole that they let him keep the gavel

mediamime on July 24, 2014 at 11:07 AM

I hope that they let him keep the gavel

mediamime on July 24, 2014 at 11:08 AM

Well done, well deserved, and congratulations Sergeant Pitts for your service. For those who thought Sergeant Pitts posed super human strength, it was nothing special. All members in uniform are taught to see through their target and to reach their goal by going through such minor roadblocks.

MSGTAS on July 24, 2014 at 11:14 AM