Clinton Romesha got a standing ovation at BYU on Thursday - for doing his job. That's the same response he gave when he was told he was to receive the Medal of Honor from the Army. "I was just doing my job," he said.
Romesha, an LDS Soldier from California, received the honor in February and was also inducted into the Hall of Heroes. "They have demonstrated uncommon valor and extraordinary courage under fire," the Army's Chief of Staff, Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, said.
He is the fourth living service member to receive the medal for either Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation Enduring Freedom. He received it for actions on Oct. 3, 2009 at Combat Outpost Keating in Afghanistan.
At BYU's Varsity Theater, he recounted the happenings of that day, and answered questions from ROTC students from BYU and UVU. He told how he was notified of the award.
"Last October, I got a call from the Pentagon," he said. The caller asked him to come in, but he was not available to leave his job for five weeks. He called back then and set an appointment. He made the trip.
"They put three posters in front of me and started talking about the Medal of Honor," he said. When they told him he was to receive it, Romesha responded that he was just doing his job.
"I was bewildered," he said. "They told me that exact phrase came out of everybody's mouth."
Romesha recounted the events of the Oct. 3, 2009 attack and what led up to it, pacing back and forth across the front of the theater with the medal around his neck.
There were 53 soldiers at the bottom of a steep valley, and they came under attack by approximately 400 Taliban fighters. The camp's perimeter was breached by the enemy. Romesha was injured in the battle, but led the fight to protect the bodies of the fallen, provided cover for those seeking medical assistance and reclaimed the American outpost that was later deemed "tactically indefensible."
When he received the Medal of Honor, his remarks included a similar summary: "Nearly 400 Taliban fighters surrounded the place me and 52 other members of Bravo Troop 3-61 Cavalry called home," he said. "Four hundred Taliban versus 53 American Soldiers: it just doesn't seem fair ... for the Taliban."
After the enemy breached the camp, there were some casualties and part of a building collapsed. A truck high centered and could not move. The last they heard by radio of the truck's occupants was that they were facing a rocket-propelled grenade.
"We still had fight left in us," he said. "We quickly came up with a plan." He asked for volunteers and five stepped forward. Support from air troops had come and gone, but returned with a B-2 bomber. When Romesha saw him, his lieutenant "had his nose in a book, reading the statistical data how close we could drop bombs to us." The calculations must have been correct, as they stopped the enemy.
"They came in and 'went Winchester' on the village," he said. "They dropped every bomb, less than 200 meters away from us."
He reflects on the events.
"When I look back to that day, I think to myself 'why did it happen to us,' " he said. He named several possibilities, including being in the wrong place, but then put it simply.
"That was our job as soldiers," he said. "You can be called on to do your job at any time as a soldier. Doing your job is what we do."
He said he wears the medal, but it is not his.
"I am the caretaker for this medal on my neck," he said. "This is your guys's, for those who are fighting today and in the future to defend this great country."