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Marines, sailor recognized for bravery

8 Jan 2009 | Lance Cpl. John M. McCall

Four Marines and one Navy corpsman were awarded for their acts of bravery with a Navy Cross and four Silver Stars Jan. 8 aboard Camp Pendleton.

Lance Cpl. Joshua R. Mooi was awarded the Navy Cross during the ceremony. Second Lt. Donald R. McGlothlin, Gunnery Sgt. Robert W. Homer, Cpl. Javier Alvarez and Petty Officer 3rd Class Jesse P. Hickey, were all awarded the Silver Star during the ceremony. McGlothlin was awarded the medal posthumously.

The Navy Cross is the second highest medal a Marine or sailor can receive and the Silver Star is the third highest. Both can only be awarded for acts of heroism during combat.

The recipients were all a part of 2nd Platoon, Company F, Battalion Landing Team 2/1, during Operation Steel Curtain, a 17-day offensive that took place in Iraq in the cities of Husaybah, Karabilah and Ubaydi.  It was designed to prevent al-Qaeda terrorists from operating in the Euphrates River valley and throughout the Al Anbar Province.  The operation made way for the establishment of a permanent Iraqi Army security presence.

On November 16, 2005 during Operation Steel Curtain, 21 enemy personnel engaged the platoon with grenades and automatic fire from several fortified buildings.

According to Lance Cpl. Mooi's Navy Cross citation, Mooi, 22-years-old from Illinios, attacked the enemy at close range with grenades and his rifle to personally recover four wounded Marines and destroy fierce adversaries who were determined to fight to their death. Often alone in his efforts, he continued to destroy the enemy and rescue wounded Marines until his rifle was destroyed by enemy fire and he was ordered to withdraw.

“He had a lot of initiative. He did a lot of things on his own that day,” said Homer, a 31-year-old from Mankato, Minn., “He was unfazed and very focused. He was my eyes and ears during the ambush.”

With such a heavy assault from the enemy every Marine had to take action to ensure Marine lives were not lost. Homer repeatedly exposed himself to the effects of grenades and small arms fire as he moved to assist Marines who were heavily engaged.

After saving three wounded Marines' lives by removing them from the effects of enemy fire he returned to the stronghold and rescued another wounded Marine.

As fighting between the Marines and insurgents worsened, Alvarez, a 28-year-old from Vail, Ariz., took the initiative to detach his squad from tank security and engage the enemy. He led his squad 100 meters through enemy kill zones to reinforce an embattled squad and his platoon commander.

During the chaos he took cover to change magazines for a third time when an enemy grenade was thrown amidst his Marines.  He immediately retrieved the grenade, but as he hurled it away from his Marines and toward the enemy, it exploded. The blast severely injured Alvarez and he was evacuated.

As Marines were injured during the battle Hickey, the squad’s corpsman at the time exposed himself to automatic gunfire while rushing 75 meters through an enemy kill zone to assist and evacuate wounded Marines.

“I don’t know the time frame but it felt like forever,” said Hickey, 26-year-old from Farmington, N. M. “It’s like you’re there but you’re not there because you have so much adrenaline pumping.”

Hickey ran into the heart of the fierce melee to provide first aid to a severely wounded Marine who lay immobilized in the kill zone. In his efforts to provide care for the Marine enemy grenade explosions wounded Hickey with shrapnel to his whole body.

“Its easy to say someone is your brother, but when you prove to each other that you’re willing to die for him and he’d die for you then it really means something,” Hickey said.  “These really are my brothers.”

With the lives of his Marines on the line McGlothlin, maneuvered through the insurgents' strongpoint and immediately engaged the insurgents to secure and recover his embattled Marines.

“He didn’t have to go into that house,” Homer said.  “There would be a lot more dead Marines if he hadn’t done what he did.”

While his last Marine was being evacuated from the building, Mcglothlin, with no regard for his life shielded the recovery effort from grenade blasts and commenced a fierce exchange of small arms fire with enemy until he was mortally wounded.

“If Donald was in a position to help he would do that,” said Ruth McGlothlin, 2nd Lt. McGlothlin’s mother, “He was always very giving.”     

At the end of the fight McGlothlin gave everything he had and ultimately made the greatest sacrifice for the Marines he led into battle.