Four Twentynine Palms Marines from 1st Battalion, 7th Marines were decorated for heroism in Afghanistan during a ceremony yesterday aboard the Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center. First Lt. Kenneth Conover III and Sgt. Kenneth Rick were awarded a Silver Star for their leadership actions, while Staff Sgt. Joshua Brodrick and Sgt. Nicholas Brandau were awarded a Bronze Star with a combat “V” for their actions in the firefight. The awards are from a six-day operation in June 2012 during which 1st Platoon, Company D, were attacked by Afghan insurgents. Two Marines were killed during the battle, another seriously injured. Managing editor Tami Roleff was at the awards ceremony, and says uncommon valor was a common virtue…
Lance Corporal Steven Stevens was killed June 22, 2012, as he was sweeping a landing zone in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, for a medevac for another injured Marine in his unit. His Lieutenant, Kenneth Conover, said two of his fellow Marines, Sergeant Kenneth Rick and Sergeant Nicholas Brandau, immediately went to his aid. “The two sergeants immediately rushed out after him and picked him up and brought him back inside of our little patrol base that we had set up.”
Lieutenant Kenneth Conover led his platoon through the six days of fighting, in which another Marine, Lance Corporal Niall Cortisears, was killed, and shot out an enemy position with an AT-4 rocket.
His staff sergeant, Joshua Brodrick, led his platoon in a counter attack against insurgents, forcing them to withdraw. For these actions and others, Brodrick and Brandau were awarded the Bronze Star with Combat “V” yesterday, and Conover and Rick were awarded the Silver Star.
Staff Sergeant Brodrick was modest about his heroic actions, though. “It’s not for us. It’s for the Marines that we did not bring home with us.”
Sergeant Brandeau, who left the Marine Corps last October, was a little uncomfortable being singled out for the honor. “The Marine Corps infrantryman, what they do on a daily basis, what they’re willing to do on a daily basis, they fight for the guy that’s right next to them. That’s what Dog 1 did. That’s why I’m super humble to be in front of everybody for all the actions of Dog 1. They’re willing to put their life down for all of us, every single member of Dog 1 would have done the same thing and we did lose two of them.”
Sergeant Rick echoed Brandau’s sentiments. “We wear this for Marines, not for us. It’s for remembrance of them.”
Leading the ceremony recognizing the four Marines was Lt. Gen. John Toolan, commanding general of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force at CampPendleton. The Marines were sent in at night by helicopter to Qaleh-ye Gaz, which Toolan described as “a bedroom community for bad guys. But the Marines of Dog 1 “took away the soft life for them,” and it’s because of “their initiative, courage, undaunted judgment and dedication to duty” during the six-day battle that these four Marines were being honored Tuesday.
Lieutenant Conover said he was grateful to the Marines he led into battle. “I couldn’t have been set up better with better Marines. I always think of those men I took into combat.” Conover’s father, Sergeant Major Kenneth Conover of Education Command in Quantico, Virginia, was proud to be at Tuesday’s ceremony and pin the Silver Star on his son’s uniform.
“I know what the Silver Star means. I was able to read the citation and all the witness statements. I was able to picture the battle in my head. It’s a great honor that my son was part of that. He’s a fine leader and a good man. All those guys were heroic. They stood up in the middle of chaos and kept cool and continued to lead their men. When Marines are wounded and killed, you have to keep going to get the rest out safely. They showed great leadership.”
1st Battalion, 7th Marines will be heading back to Afghanistan in about a week and a half.More photos can be seen on Z107.7’s FaceBook page, Morongo Basin Broadcasting.