North Dakota Medal of Honor recipient credits platoon's valor

2013-01-16T14:26:00Z 2013-01-16T22:30:39Z North Dakota Medal of Honor recipient credits platoon's valorBy BRIAN GEHRING | Bismarck Tribune Bismarck Tribune

Clinton and Tammy Romesha are ready for boring times. But that will have to wait.

On Feb. 11, Romesha and his family of Minot, N.D., will be at the White House when President Barack Obama bestows the Medal of Honor on the former U.S. Army staff sergeant for “courageous actions” in Afghanistan in 2009.

On Wednesday, the couple talked to reporters from the Minot Armed Forces Reserve Center.

Romesha, 31, was involved in a 13-hour firefight that claimed the lives of eight fellow soldiers on Oct. 3, 2009, at Combat Outpost Keating in Afghanistan’s Nuristan province.

During the news conference that lasted about 45 minutes, Romesha continually deflected questions about specifics of the battle, saying a short window of time wouldn’t do the story justice.

But the story is known, chronicled in the book “The Outpost” by journalist Jake Tapper.

The outpost, in this case, was at the bottom of a valley surrounded by mountains on all sides. His squad, which numbered about 50 soldiers, was attacked by an Afghan force that numbered about 300 who were armed with rocket-propelled grenades, machine guns, mortars and rifles.

Romesha, who left the Army in 2011 after a 12-year career, was wounded when a grenade exploded near a generator he was taking cover behind.

In part, the Medal of Honor citation reads, “Undeterred by his injuries, Staff Sergeant Romesha continued to fight and upon the arrival of another soldier to aid him and the assistant gunner, he again rushed through the exposed avenue to assemble additional soldiers.

“With complete disregard for his own safety, (he) continually exposed himself to heavy enemy fire as he moved confidently about the battlefield engaging and destroying multiple enemy targets.”

Romesha, who works as security supervisor for KS Industries, an oil industry-related company, said he was at work when he received a call from the White House about the Medal of Honor citation.

He will be the fourth living service member awarded the nation’s top honor for courage in Iraq or Afghanistan.

He said there were rumors circulating about the honor, but he said he was “starstruck” when the president called.

“He congratulated me and we had a nice, brief conversation,” Romesha said.

Both Romesha and his wife, Tammy, are from families with a long history of military service.

The Romeshas grew up in Lake City, a town of about 100 people in northern California. They moved to Minot 18 months ago and a number of members from both sides of the family have relocated to Minot.

The Romeshas said they are still working out the logistics as to how many members of their family will be able to attend the event at the White House. They have two daughters and one son.

As much as Tammy Romesha is looking forward to the trip, she said she’s looking forward to the following day, Feb. 12, with more anticipation.

“The next day will be our 13th anniversary,” she said.

Meanwhile, Romesha remains humble about the events of 2009, giving most of the credit to his fellow soldiers who helped recover three comrades who were wounded during the battle.

“We had a great team of guys,” he said. “We weren’t going to be beat that day.”

For the Romesha family, getting back to normal will involve some quality time on ice — playing hockey in Clinton Romesha’s case, and in Tammy Romesha’s case, being a figure skating mom.

“Our date nights are usually watching the Minotauros play,” Tammy Romesha said, referring to Minot’s North American Hockey League team.

Clinton Romesha said he wants to make up for what he missed during his 12 years in the military.

“What I’m looking forward most to is being a husband and a father,” he said.

Reach reporter Brian Gehring 250-8254 or brian.gehring@bismarcktribune.com.

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