Monday, October 09, 2006

20 Year Old Marine PFC Put Up For The Congressional Medal Of Honor
But he's not 'mature' enough to buy a beer

Marine Lance Cpl. Erick Hodges, left, and Lance Cpl. Ryan Sunnerville, right, pose with Pfc. Christopher Adlesperger on Nov. 8, 2004. Two days later, in an attack in Fallouja, Adlesperger killed at least 11 insurgents. Hodges was killed and Sunnerville was wounded.

On Nov. 10, 2004, in 30 minutes of close combat, Marine PFC. Christopher Adlesperger, a soft-spoken, religious young man who loved poetry and art, attacked an enemy stronghold in Fallouja, Iraq, and killed at least 11 insurgents.

He killed them with his M-16 and with his grenade launcher. He killed them at such close range he could hear the blood gurgling in their mouths and noses.

He killed insurgents who were heavily armed and probably high on drugs (some had injected themselves with lidocaine, Novocain or adrenaline, allowing them to fight even after receiving mortal wounds, a spectacle the Marines called the "Night of the Living Dead.") — and who had just killed his close friend, Lance Cpl. Erick Hodges.

He protected two wounded squad members from attack and saved innumerable Marines.

When it was over, Adlesperger's face had been bloodied by shrapnel and he had bullet holes in the sleeve and collar of his uniform. He refused to be evacuated until Hodges' body was recovered.

Adlesperger, acting as the point man for the four-man fire team, had attempted to knock down a gate. Hodges moved forward and was immediately felled by a hail of bullets from inside, probably from a concealed opening in the masonry wall.

As they rushed the house, Navy corpsman Alonso Rogero was hit in the stomach and Lance Cpl. Ryan Sunnerville in the leg. Grainy, shaky film of the incident shows Sunnerville hopping on one leg, still firing his M-16. Marines and insurgents exchanged gunfire from no more than 20 feet. From inside the building, the insurgents also threw grenades.

The insurgents had hoped to spring what is called a Chechen ambush, named after the rebels who have fought Russian troops for years. The tactic is particularly successful when tanks cannot be used.

The strategy, Marines determined later, had been to wound Marines attempting to enter the building. When other Marines came to help them, an insurgent sniper down an alleyway would pick off corpsmen, radio operators and officers. And when enough Marines or vehicles were gathered, insurgents would fire rocket-propelled grenades.

Adlesperger fired at the insurgent machine-gun position as he ran toward Rogero and Sunnerville. He helped the two up the outside stairway to the roof. As insurgents tried to storm the stairway, Adlesperger killed them before they could reach the roof. Shrapnel ripped into his face.

From his rooftop position, he could see insurgents peppering Hodges' lifeless body with bullets, including two to his head. When one ran from the building to seize Hodges' weapon, Adlesperger killed him with a single shot.

Still, the machine-gun position inside the building had not been touched, and it was pinning down Marines gathering to assault the building from the front. With no time to consult officers, and with other Marine units engaged in firefights, Adlesperger was left to his own initiative.

Unable to penetrate the building with his M-16, Adlesperger shifted to the grenade launcher. Standing on the roof, he blew holes in the building and then rained down gunfire on the insurgents below him. They returned fire and then fled.

From his rooftop position, Adlesperger killed four insurgents who had fled into the courtyard, each with a shot to the head. By an Officer's estimate, Adlesperger killed a total of 11 insurgents. The actual number may be higher.

Marines from adjoining rooftops joined Adlesperger and began preparing the wounded for evacuation. Once that was done and Hodges' body was removed, the Marines pushed in one side of the building with an amphibious assault vehicle. Adlesperger insisted on being the first Marine to search the building to make sure all the insurgents were dead.

That night, a senior Marine went to Adlesperger to gather information for the official report. As Adlesperger spoke, he began to weep — not for the men he had killed, or even for the fact he had had to kill them, but for Hodges, a wisecracking Northern Californian who was on his second combat tour in Iraq and had turned 21 only the day before.

"He just kept saying, 'Hodges, Hodges, we had to get him out,' "

For his bravery, Adlesperger is among a handful of Marines who have been nominated for the Medal of Honor in Iraq. A nomination does not ensure that an award will be made. No Marine has been awarded the Medal of Honor for combat occurring since Vietnam.

The nation's highest recognition of bravery is reserved for those who have shown conspicuous gallantry above and beyond the call of duty. In fact, two-thirds of the Medals of Honor awarded to Marines since the beginning of World War II have been posthumous.

If an award is made to Adlesperger, his too will be posthumous.

A month after the firefight for which he has been nominated, Adlesperger led Marines in storming another building where insurgents were hiding. He was shot in the heart and died instantly.

Where do we find MEN such as these? I don't know about you, but I got pretty damn choked-up reading this.


Blogger Jay Anderson said...

"Where do we find MEN such as these?"

Indeed. When I read stuff like this, it makes me ashamed to have spent my life as a civilian.

Godspeed, Marine.

9:04 PM  
Blogger Former Altar Boy said...


10:15 PM  
Blogger fidelis servus said...

Awesome. Thanks for passing this along. Americans need to read more stories like this! From the sounds of it, no question about the CMH. I'll be adding these young men and their families to my prayers tonight.

10:57 PM  
Blogger IR said...

that's One Badass Jarhead! As an old paratrooper--I'm damned glad he's and American, and hope he gets his MOH!

Our military tradition is proud, and I know the Corps will not forget his name.

All the Way, Sir!

11:27 PM  
Blogger aaron said...

Hear hear on the beer! I don't understand you guys on the other-sdie of the world. 18 is legal over here and most are mature enough about it... having learnt many years before

7:42 AM  
Blogger CPT Tom said...

Quite a contrast to the waste products that inhabit the average suburban mall or college campus here in the States?

I see stories like this and have faith that are future is secure, if only because young men and women such as this fine Marine keep coming to the fore.

God bless you Marine, mission accomplished!

9:44 AM  
Blogger Dad29 said...

Choked up and the screen's becoming wavy...

1:55 PM  
Blogger Gaufridus said...

"Where do we find MEN such as these?"

Well, if the report is true, not in Norway.

Dominus tecum.

1:09 PM  

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