MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
Under a moonlit night in the heart of Helmand Province, Afghanistan, Marines with 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, exited their helicopter and immediately rushed to secure the landing zone. The squad leader issued the order for a reconnaissance mission to be conducted which was followed by one of the hardest fought engagements during the battalion's deployment.
Shortly after leaving the platoon, the reconnaissance squad was ambushed. They quickly found themselves under mortar and small- arms fire. With rounds impacting all around him, the squad leader directed suppressing fire, destroying nearby enemy positions and successfully repelling the ambush.
Sergeant Kenneth Rick's quick response and decisions during the ensuing firefight in Qaleh-ye Gaz, Afghanistan, earned him the Silver Star Medal, Feb. 19, 2014, the nation's third highest award for valor.
"I give a lot of credit to my Marines," said Rick, a squad leader with 1st Bn., 7th Marines and a native of Sacramento. "We all knew what to do when that ambush went off and I had to tell my Marines very little."
After returning to the patrol base, Rick's squad was assigned as a security team. During a patrol one of the Marines was wounded, Rick rushed across more than 200 meters of open ground under enemy fire to recover the fallen Marine. While still under fire, he carried the Marine to safety and led his squad back to the patrol base. He remained outside suppressing the enemy until all of his Marines were safely inside.
"My job as a squad leader was to lead from the front," said Rick, now a recruiter in Pleasant Hill, Calif. "When one of my Marines was injured it was my job to help out even if it meant putting myself in harm's way."
This example of selfless devotion to lead Marines is taught from the very beginning of recruit training. Rick and his Marines have been inspired by the actions of the Marines that have gone before them.
"These Marines did not just appear on the battlefield doing heroic things" said Lt. Gen. John Toolan, the commanding general of I Marine Expeditionary Force. "They had examples to look up to."
Rick received the Silver Star Medal, along with three other Marines who received awards for their actions during the battalion's deployment.
"What Marines are willing to do on a daily basis is to fight for the guy that's right next to them," said Staff Sgt. Joshua Brodrick, a platoon sergeant with 1st Bn. 7th Marines. "We don't accept these awards for ourselves, we accept them for the Marines that served with us and the ones that didn't make it home."
As a recruiter, Rick looks for Marines that show as much dedication and commitment as he and his Marines exemplified that day.
"We are not always going for the biggest or the strongest recruits," said Rick. "We want the recruits that will show heart and never give up."
Rick is currently adjusting from being an infantryman to a recruiter. He believes that no matter what role he serves in the Marine Corps, he will always uphold its high standards.
"I'm just trying to honor the reputation we have," said Rick. "What I take away from those days we were in combat was that my squad and I acted as Marines and upheld the standards of the Marine Corps."
Though many see Rick's actions that day as an extraordinary act of courage, Rick believes his actions were a reflection of the men to his left and right. He now wears the Silver Star, representing the Marines of today's and tomorrow's Corps.