MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. -- Sergeant Matthew T. Woodall, a former squad leader serving with Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, was awarded the Silver Star Medal at the Camp San Mateo parade deck here, Aug. 2.
Woodall, a native of Paducah, Ky., earned the nation’s third highest military award for valor for his actions in Helmand province, Afghanistan, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
“I was doing my job, I don’t think I did anything different than anyone else would,” Woodall said. “But when you’re there, you’re really doing everything for your brothers on your left and on your right.”
A platoon-sized enemy force attacked Woodall and his Marines from several fortified positions during a security patrol mission in the Sangin district of Helmand, July 10 through 11, 2011.
A Marine was wounded by gunfire directly in front of Woodall. Without hesitation, he exposed himself to a hail of enemy fire and shielded the Marine with his body while providing suppressive fire until a corpsman arrived.
“When you’re over there with these guys every day, it really becomes like a family,” Woodall said. “Your natural instinct is to protect your family. It was just the natural thing for me to do.”
Woodall ensured his wounded Marine was properly cared for before leading an assault on the nearest enemy compound. He directed his squad as they repelled repeated enemy assaults with light anti-armor weapons and small arms fire from their flank.
“We ran low on ammo at one point,” said Lance Cpl. Justin Lehn a rifleman serving with Bravo Co. “(Woodall) had our (squad automatic weapon gunners) break down their ammo drums to give more ammo to our riflemen.”
When the enemy pinned down a squad sent to reinforce Woodall’s men, Woodall led a counterattack through multiple compounds to secure the reinforcement.
“He’s the kind of leader that all Marines strive to be,” said Cpl. Jalonnie Rhim, an assistant squad automatic weapon gunner serving with Bravo Co. and native of Rochester, N.Y. “He was very cool under fire.”
Woodall then led his men as they crawled through a cornfield for more than an hour to ambush an enemy force after receiving reports of the enemy gathering for another attack. They took the enemy with the surprise of their withering fire and drove them out of the village after more than seven hours of intense combat.
“What we thought was going to be a normal day turned out to be one hell of a firefight,” said Lehn, a Long Island, N.Y., native. “Woodall kept directing us with orders and reassuring us with confidence to keep us pushing through.”
He kept himself collected during the firefight to keep his Marines from becoming nervous or scared, he said
“I always tried to remember that I’m in charge of these guys, so I wanted to lead by example,” Woodall said. “I always felt that if they saw me keeping my emotions under control, that they would try to emulate me.”
His daring actions ultimately defeated the enemy attack, killing four insurgents and wounding many others.
“I know that the citation that was read says my name on it, but I’m just an individual Marine,” Woodall said. “My squad was just amazing, and they are some of the best Marines I’ve met. They were brave every day. Sangin was a terrible place. Without them, I’m just one Marine.”
Woodall was honorably discharged from active duty service during December 2012. He currently attends the University of Eastern Kentucky and hopes to work for the Department of Homeland Security in the future to continue serving his country.