As 2018 comes to a close, we are looking back on the American heroes who were honored this year with our nation’s highest military honor, the Medal of Honor, for their actions during combat. These five brave men were awarded the Medal for their courage, sacrifice and extraordinary valor. Take a minute to read through each of their legacies and be inspired to find the hero within yourself.
Britt Slabinski received the Medal of Honor for his actions during the War on Terror in Afghanistan. He was awarded the Medal during a ceremony at the White House on May 24, 2018. His citation reads:
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while assigned to a Joint TaskForce in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM. In the early morning of 4 March 2002, Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Slabinski led a reconnaissance team to its assigned area atop a 10,000-foot snow-covered mountain. Their insertion helicopter was suddenly riddled with rocket-propelled grenades and small arms fire from previously undetected enemy positions. The crippled helicopter lurched violently and ejected one teammate onto the mountain before the pilots were forced to crash land in the valley far below. Senior Chief Slabinski boldly rallied his five remaining team members and marshalled supporting assets for an assault to rescue their stranded teammate. During reinsertion the team came under fire from three directions, and one teammate started moving uphill toward an enemy strongpoint. Without regard for his own safety, Senior Chief Slabinski charged directly toward enemy fire to join his teammate. Together, they fearlessly assaulted and cleared the first bunker they encountered. The enemy then unleashed a hail of machine gun fire from a second hardened position only twenty meters away. Senior Chief Slabinski repeatedly exposed himself to deadly fire to personally engage the second enemy bunker and orient his team’s fires in the furious, close-quarters firefight. Proximity made air support impossible, and after several teammates became casualties, the situation became untenable. Senior Chief Slabinski maneuvered his team to a more defensible position, directed air strikes in very close proximity to his team’s position, and requested reinforcements. As daylight approached, accurate enemy mortar fire forced the team further down the sheer mountainside. Senior Chief Slabinski carried a seriously wounded teammate through deep snow and led a difficult trek across precipitous terrain while calling in fire on the enemy, which was engaging the team from the surrounding ridges. Throughout the next 14 hours, Senior Chief Slabinski stabilized the casualties and continued the fight against the enemy until the hill was secured and his team was extracted. By his undaunted courage, bold initiative, leadership, and devotion to duty, Senior Chief Slabinski reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.
Garlin Conner posthumously received the Medal of Honor for his actions during World War II. He was honored during a ceremony at the White House where his wife accepted his Medal on June 26, 2018. His citation reads:
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, March 3rd, 1863, has awarded in the name of Congress the Medal of Honor to First Lieutenant Garlin M. Conner, United States Army, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his own life above and beyond the call of duty. First Lieutenant Garlin M. Conner distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity while serving with Company K, 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division. On the morning of January 24, 1945, near the town of Houssen, France, German forces ferociously counterattacked the front left flank of the 7th Infantry Regiment with 600 infantry troops, six Mark VI tanks, and tank destroyers. Lieutenant Conner, having recently returned to his unit after recovering from a wound received in an earlier battle, was working as the intelligence officer in the 3rd Battalion Command Post at the time of the attack. Understanding the devastating effect that the advancing enemy armor could have on the battalion, Lieutenant Conner immediately volunteered to run straight into the heart of the enemy assault to get to a position from which he could direct friendly artillery on the advancing enemy forces. With complete disregard for his own safety, Lieutenant Conner maneuvered 400 yards through the enemy artillery fire that destroyed trees in his path and rained shrapnel all around him, while unrolling telephone wire needed to communicate with the battalion command post. Upon reaching the battalion’s front line, he continued to move forward under the enemy assault to a position 30 yards in front of the defending United States forces, where he plunged into a shallow ditch that provided minimal protection from the advancing enemy’s heavy machine gun and small-arms fire. With rounds impacting all around him, Lieutenant Conner calmly directed multiple fire missions, adjusting round after round of artillery from his prone position, until the enemy was forced to halt its advance and seek cover behind a nearby dike. For three hours, Lieutenant Conner remained in his compromised position, enduring the repeated onslaught of German infantry, which at one point advanced to within five yards of his position. As German infantry regrouped and began to mass in an overwhelming assault, Lieutenant Conner ordered friendly artillery to concentrate directly on his own position, having resolved to die if necessary to destroy the enemy advance. Ignoring the friendly artillery shells blanketing his position and exploding mere feet from him, Lieutenant Conner continued to direct artillery fire on the enemy assault swarming around him until the German attack was finally broken. By his heroism and disregard for his own life, Lieutenant Conner stopped the enemy advance. The artillery he expertly directed, while under constant enemy fire, killed approximately 50 German soldiers and wounded an estimated 100 more, preventing what would have undoubtedly been heavy friendly casualties. His actions are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, the 3rd Infantry Division, and the United States Army.
John Chapman posthumously received the Medal of Honor for his actions during the War on Terror in Afghanistan. He was honored during a ceremony at the White House where his wife and daughters accepted his Medal on August 22, 2018. His citation reads:
Technical Sergeant John A. Chapman distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism as an Air Force Special Tactics CombatController, attached to a Navy Sea, Air, and Land (SEAL) Team conducting reconnaissance operations in Takur Ghar, Afghanistan, on March 4, 2002. During insertion, the team’s helicopter was ambushed causing a teammate to fall into an entrenched group of enemy combatants below. Sergeant Chapman and the team voluntarily reinserted onto the snow-capped mountain, into the heart of a known enemy stronghold to rescue one of their own. Without regard for his own safety, Sergeant Chapman immediately engaged, moving in the direction of the closest enemy position despite coming under heavy fire from multiple directions. He fearlessly charged an enemy bunker, up a steep incline in thigh-deep snow and into hostile fire, directly engaging the enemy. Upon reaching the bunker, Sergeant Chapman assaulted and cleared the position, killing all enemy occupants. With complete disregard for his own life, Sergeant Chapman deliberately moved from cover only 12 meters from the enemy, and exposed himself once again to attack a second bunker, from which an emplaced machine gun was firing on his team. During this assault from an exposed position directly in the line of intense fire, Sergeant Chapman was struck and injured by enemy fire. Despite severe, mortal wounds, he continued to fight relentlessly, sustaining a violent engagement with multiple enemy personnel before making the ultimate sacrifice. By his heroic actions and extraordinary valor, sacrificing his life for the lives of his teammates, Technical Sergeant Chapman upheld the highest traditions of military service and reflected great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.
Ronald Shurer II received the Medal of Honor for his actions during the War on Terror in Afghanistan. He was awarded the Medal during a ceremony at the White House on October 1, 2018. His citation reads:
Staff Sergeant Ronald J. Shurer II distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty on April 6, 2008, while serving as a Senior Medical Sergeant, Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha 3336, Special Operations Task Force-33, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Staff Sergeant Shurer was part of an assault element inserted by helicopter into a location in Afghanistan. As the assault element moved up a near vertical mountain toward its objective, it was engaged by fierce enemy machine gun, sniper, and rocket-propelled grenade fire. The lead portion of the assault element, which included the ground commander, sustained several casualties and became pinned down on the mountainside. Staff Sergeant Shurer and the rest of the trailing portion of the assault element were likewise engaged by enemy machine gun, sniper, and rocket-propelled grenade fire. As the attack intensified, Staff Sergeant Shurer braved enemy fire to move to an injured Soldier and treat his wounds. Having stabilized the injured Soldier, Staff Sergeant Shurer then learned of the casualties among the lead element. Staff Sergeant Shurer fought his way up the mountainside, under intense enemy fire, to the lead element’s location. Upon reaching the lead element, he treated and stabilized two more Soldiers. Finishing those lifesaving efforts, Staff Sergeant Shurer noticed two additional severely wounded Soldiers under intense enemy fire. The bullet that had wounded one of these Soldiers had also impacted Staff Sergeant Shurer’s helmet. With complete disregard for his own life, Staff Sergeant Shurer again moved through enemy fire to treat and stabilize one Soldier’s severely wounded arm. Shortly thereafter, Staff Sergeant Shurer continued to brave withering enemy fire to get to the other Soldier’s location in order to treat his lower leg, which had been almost completely severed by a high-caliber sniper round. After treating the Soldier, Staff Sergeant Shurer began to evacuate the wounded; carrying and lowering them down the sheer mountainside. While moving down the mountain, Staff Sergeant Shurer used his own body to shield the wounded from enemy fire and debris caused by danger-close air strikes. Reaching the base of the mountain, Staff Sergeant Shurer set up a casualty collection point and continued to treat the wounded. With the arrival of the medical evacuation helicopter, Staff Sergeant Shurer, again under enemy fire, helped load the wounded into the helicopter. Having ensured the safety of the wounded, Staff Sergeant Shurer then regained control of his commando squad and rejoined the fight. He continued to lead his troops and emplace security elements until it was time to move to the evacuation landing zone for the helicopter. Staff Sergeant Shurer’s actions are in keeping with the finest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan, Special Operations Command Central, and the United States Army.
John Canley received the Medal of Honor for his actions during the Vietnam War. He was awarded the Medal during a ceremony at the White House on October 17, 2018. His citation reads:
The President of the United States, in the name of Congress, takes pleasure in awarding the Congressional Medal of Honor to Gunnery Sergeant John L. Canley, United States Marine Corps, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty in action against the enemy while serving as Company Gunnery Sergeant, Alpha Company, First Battalion, First Marines, First Marine Division, from 31 January to 6 February 1968, in the Republic of Vietnam. Alpha Company fought off multiple vicious attacks as it rapidly moved along the highway toward Huế City to relieve friendly forces that were surrounded by enemy. Despite being wounded in these engagements, Gunnery Sergeant Canley repeatedly rushed across fire-swept terrain to carry his wounded Marines to safety. After his commanding officer was severely wounded, Gunnery Sergeant Canley took command and led the company into Huế City. At Huế City, caught in deadly crossfire from enemy machine gun positions, he set up a base of fire and maneuvered with a platoon in a flanking attack that eliminated several enemy positions. Retaining command of the company for three days, he led attacks against multiple enemy fortified positions while routinely braving enemy fire to carry wounded Marines to safety. On 4 February, he led a group of Marines into an enemy-occupied building in Huế City. He moved into the open to draw fire, located the enemy, eliminated the threat, and expanded the company’s hold on the building room by room. Gunnery Sergeant Canley then gained position above the enemy strongpoint and dropped in a large satchel charge that forced the enemy to withdraw. On 6 February, during a fierce firefight at a hospital compound, Gunnery Sergeant Canley twice scaled a wall in full view of the enemy to carry wounded Marines to safety. By his undaunted courage, selfless sacrifice, and unwavering devotion to duty, Gunnery Sergeant Canley reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.