In fact, I know Golsteyn—now a major—well. I served alongside him in Marjah for months (though not on the 20th of February—I was among the thousands of Marines fighting elsewhere in the district that day) and can attest that he is one of the most courageous, dedicated, and honorable officers I encountered during my service in the military. He would give his life for the men he led without a moment’s thought—and he very nearly did, on several occasions. When we returned from our deployments and honors began to roll in for Golsteyn, I reflected that it is nice to see the good guys get recognized.
It didn’t last long. In 2011, shortly after a book by author and Marine Bing West came out that detailed Golsteyn’s heroism and quoted him making critical remarks about the American strategy in Afghanistan, I learned that the Army had launched a criminal investigation into his actions during the battle. (Again, full disclosure: I was also interviewed for that book, The Wrong War, and make a brief appearance in it.)
The investigation, apparently, had nothing to do with the acts of bravery that earned Golsteyn his medal. Instead, according to the Washington Post, which cited officials familiar with the case, it concerned “an undisclosed violation of the military’s rules of engagement in combat for killing a known enemy fighter and bomb maker.” The investigation stretched on for nearly two years, during which time the Army effectively put Golsteyn’s career on ice. In 2014, Golsteyn and his lawyer were informed that the investigation was finally complete. No charges were filed, but Golsteyn still wasn’t released from administrative limbo.