The Air Force Cross. “The Air Force Cross is awarded for extraordinary heroism not justifying the award of a Medal of Honor while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States; while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force; or while serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party.” The Secretary of the Air Force decorated Combat Controller Staff Sergeant Richard Hunter with the Air Force Cross just a couple days ago. This was the second one awarded this year; approximately ten others have been awarded for operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan. (Master Sergeant Keary Miller received his shortly after the list in the link was published.)
These days, it seems that many, if not most, of us have completely forgotten that we still have men and women over seas in harms way. After all, the war in Iraq is largely over, US backed forces in Syria recently captured Raqqa–the self-proclaimed capital of ISIS, and news of the war in Afghanistan is largely eclipsed by the more mundane domestic news here at home. The men and women we have stationed overseas seem to be largely forgotten–until something very bad happens, like the ambush of a Special Forces team in Niger last week. Within hours, though, this tragedy was again replaced in the media by yet another seemingly trivial bashing of Trump or another Hollywood scandal. (Not to diminish some of the allegations coming out of Hollywood as these are truly reprehensible.) Nevertheless, it seems like our military forces remain more out of sight, and out of mind.
Sgt Hunter received his Air Force Cross for actions in Kunduz Province, Afghanistan, just last year. The full text of his citation can be found here but suffice it to say that the exploits of his mission placed him in danger not only from the Taliban forces, but also from the very men who were providing the fire support for which he was calling as 31 of the airstrikes were “danger close”–meaning friendly forces are in close proximity to the target. Indeed, some of the airstrikes Sgt Hunter called in were reportedly as close as 13 meters–40 feet–from him and his Special Forces team.
Staff Sergeant Christopher Baradat received his award earlier this year for action in 2013. Sgt Baradat served as the Combat Controller for a Special Forces Team operating as a quick reaction force in their effort to relieve a pinned down coalition force. Baradat and the Special Forces team actually had to fight their way in to secure the coalition force and then fight their way back out. His citation can be found here.
The exploits of Sergeants Baradat and Hunter–and many, many others–truly are the stuff of legend. Their sacrifice tends to go unnoticed as, at least in the case of Sgt Hunter, two of his teammates came home on their shield, rather than carrying it. The sacrifices these men–and women–make, as well as their fellow airmen, Marines, sailors and soldiers is often completely forgotten about. While these men define the tip of the spear, the sacrifice that accompanies it must not be forgotten. On behalf of my family, to all of those men and women now serving and those who have served, THANK YOU for your service.