Four Marines in 1ST Tanks Battalion at the Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center were honored for their heroism at a ceremony on the base Tuesday morning for their actions while deployed to Afghanistan. Two Marines received the Navy-Marine Corps Medal, the services’ second-highest non-combatant medal; one Marine was awarded a Bronze Star with Combat V for valor in combat; and the fourth Marine was awarded a Purple Heart for injuries sustained during combat. Managing editor Tami Roleff was at yesterday’s ceremony…


Captain Christopher Ashinhurst, who was awarded the Bronze Star yesterday, explained why he and the others were honored. “They were at their best when the situation was at its worst for seven months.” Ashinhurst was the company commander of Delta Company with 1st Tanks when insurgents attacked Outpost Shir Ghazay in May 2013 with a suicide improvised explosive device, or IED. “We had several Marines respond to the blast site itself to start providing care for the casualties… And then everybody that was on a tank moved out extremely quickly and essentially locked down the area to prevent a follow-on attack.” Two other Marines with 1st Tanks—Corporal Matthew Gonzales and Sergeant Arturo Zavala Jr.—were awarded for their heroism for another incident in an earlier deployment. In February 2012, their tank was going down a road in the rain when it sank in a hidden wadi, or ditch. Three of the four Marines were able to get out, but the driver was trapped inside. Gonzales said he and Zavala went back into the tank to rescue the driver. “The tank just sunk in there, and while it was sinking down, me and my gunner, we went down there and grabbed him and pulled and pulled and finally he got free.” Fredy Esquivel was just two weeks from returning home from his deployment in August 2010 went he was injured, earning him a Purple Heart medal. “My vehicle was the third vehicle back and we struck an IED.” Was he scared? “A little bit.” Four American heroes who say they were just doing what anyone would do in their position.

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