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December 12, 2006

50 Heroes from 50 States.

DoD, responding to pressure from the blogs and others, is finally getting their "Honor the Heroes" meme working. They've launched a new website: 50 Heroes From 50 States.

The Armorer wishes to highlight our regional representatives. Denizens should feel free over time to honor the ones from their areas - on their blogs and link 'em here in the H&I Fires post!


While serving as the battalion surgeon for a Marine unit from January to September 2005 in the Al Anbar province of Iraq, Dr. Gratton was responsible for the health and well-being of 1,700 Marines, sailors and Iraqi soldiers. During his deployment, Gratton provided specialized medical care to more than 1,000 patients, and organized material and personnel support for more than 500 Iraqi army personnel. On May 7 alone, he supervised and treated 11 casualties injured in an IED attack in Haditha. In addition, Gratton provided trauma care to the battalion’s 345 troops wounded in action, 150 of whom were in critical condition and had to be evacuated. On Aug. 28, 2006, Gratton received the Bronze Star Medal for his work.


During her deployment at Kirkuk Air Base from March 28-July 10, 2003, Master Sgt. Whitaker helped establish the first air-control service in northern Iraq since 1990. The service supported about 4,800 combat actions, including covert operations, humanitarian airlifts and medical evacuations. She also supervised several covert flight operations using tactical radios and night vision goggles, and developed explosive-ordinance disposal procedures for the base. She co-authored airfield operating procedures for aero-medical evacuation of wounded coalition forces that resulted in the rapid evacuation of more than 86 critically wounded soldiers and airmen. In May 2006, Whitaker became the first woman in the Missouri Air National Guard’s history to receive the Bronze Star Medal.


Then-Cpl. Mitchell was involved in the same fight during the battle of Fallujah on Nov. 13, 2004, as Sgt. Maj. Kasal (see Iowa). Several wounded Marines were trapped inside an Iraqi home known as the “House of Hell” with numerous insurgents waiting to ambush the incoming troops. Mitchell organized his men to assault the building, charged, and quickly took firing positions. Mitchell sped through the kill zone, getting hit as he went. He killed an enemy fighter with his combat knife, and called in support through a small, barred window. With information supplied from Mitchell, the Marines suppressed the insurgents’ attack, and extracted the wounded Marines inside. Mitchell was one of the last to leave, despite being injured. On April 25, 2006, Mitchell was awarded the Navy Cross.


Then-1st Sgt. Kasal was assisting a platoon in Fallujah on Nov. 13, 2004, when heavy gunfire broke out in an Iraqi home known as the “House of Hell.” Marines quickly began exiting the building as Kasal rushed in to assess the situation. Kasal was hit repeatedly as he grabbed a wounded Marine stranded in the line of fire. He then gave his medical supplies to the other Marine instead of dividing the limited materials. The insurgents threw a hand grenade close to the Marines to force them to come out from under cover. Kasal used his own severely injured body to protect the other Marine from shrapnel. Despite losing about 60 percent of his blood from more than 47 wounds, Kasal survived. On March 23, 2006, Kasal was awarded the Navy Cross.


First Lt. McCarty’s platoon was patrolling in the Adhamiyah district of Baghdad on Nov. 20, 2004, when a group of insurgents attacked. As the enemy fighters inflicted a massive assault on the 26-man team, McCarty directed a counterattack. At one point, McCarty charged and destroyed an enemy machine-gun team without any support. In all, his team stopped an enemy three-man machine-gun team and a force of about 75 insurgents. McCarty’s actions prevented the capture of an Iraqi police station. On Feb. 4, 2006, McCarty was awarded the Silver Star Medal. He was previously awarded the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, the Meritorious Service Medal and the Army Commendation Medal with Valor.


Staff Sgt. Payne’s battalion was finishing an operation on Haifa Street in Baghdad on Sept. 12, 2004, when a vehicle-borne IED exploded into the rear of a Bradley fighting vehicle. As the blast disabled the Bradley and trapped men inside, insurgents began firing down onto the street. Payne directed his squad into a position to provide cover fire while he and another soldier raced to help those stuck inside the damaged vehicle. Payne climbed atop the Bradley and helped two of the crewmen out of the turret. He reached inside the compartment and began pulling the trapped infantrymen out one by one. As the battle lulled, Payne and his soldiers loaded the injured up for evacuation. For his actions, Payne received the Silver Star Medal on Feb. 27, 2005.


Navy SEAL Petty Officer Dietz was sent on a mission to kill or capture the enemy militia leader Ahmad Shah, aka Mullah Ismail. After the terrorists found the team, Dietz helped others keep the large enemy force at bay. Dietz was also severely wounded in the firefight, but also continued to hold his ground, giving one of the other SEALs the chance to escape. The other SEAL was able to evade the Taliban fighters and was recovered by U.S. forces a few days later. Dietz died in the firefight.

Dietz was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross on Sept. 13, 2006.

Comments on 50 Heroes from 50 States.
beth briefed on December 12, 2006 07:05 PM

Wow, Matt Gratton! A hero from Kansas!
I went to college with Matt. We both attended Rockhurst University in Kansas City. Matt was a lot of fun in college. He went to high school with my ex-husband at Rockhurst High School. I remember when he joined the Navy and they paid for his medical school. I do know that for at least a time, Matt was an emergency room physician at Truman Medical Center. When he was Active Duty in the Navy, he was a surgeon on a nuclear sub.

In college, Matt was nice to everyone and would help anyone out who needed help. I can see he is still a great guy!

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