KUNDUZ, Afghanistan — 14 American soldiers made history May 12, becoming the first foreigners to ever receive Germany’s Gold Cross medal, one of the nation’s highest awards for valor.
The U.S. Medical Evacuation (MEDEVAC) crewmen were honored for risking their lives to come to the rescue of German soldiers, who were ambushed by as many as 200 Taliban fighters during a patrol north of the city of Kunduz on April 2nd.
11 German soldiers were critically wounded in the fighting, and the battle was still raging when the U.S. Army Black Hawk evacuation helicopters arrived on the scene.
“We came under very heavy fire,” said Army Chief Warrant Officer Jason LaCrosse, one of the helicopter pilots. “We couldn’t land at first but we came back in a second time and loaded two casualties, brought them back to the hospital, then we went back to get more.”
Three of the Germans who were injured in the battle died from their wounds. The others survived.
“We’ve had a strong partnership with the German soldiers," said Army Sgt. Antonio Gattis "These guys are like family to us so we took it personally when they got injured and just went out there and did what we had to do."
The American heroes are all members of the U.S. Army’s 12th combat aviation brigade. They are Army Capt. Robert McDonough, LaCrosse, Army Chief Warrant Officer Steven Husted, Army Chief Warrant Officer Nelson Visaya, Army Chief Warrant Officer Jason Brown, Army Chief Warrant Officer Sean Johnson, Army Chief Warrant Officer Eric Wells, Army Staff Sgt Travis Brown, Army Sgt William Ebel, Gattis, Army Sgt. Steven Shumaker, Army Spc. Matthew Baker, Army Spc. Todd Marchese and Army Spc. Gregory Martinez.
They received their Gold Cross medals during a ceremony in Kunduz, less than 10 kilometers from where the firefight took place.