On an early July morning six years ago, Army Staff Sgt. Ryan M. Pitts, his arms and legs wounded by shrapnel, single-handedly defended an observation post near the village of Wanat in Afghanistan, preventing it from being overrun in a battle that claimed nine of his fellow soldiers.
Injured, alone and rapidly losing blood, Pitts succeeded in using his machine gun and grenades to hold off attackers while sending coordinates to a command post, which allowed airstrikes to hit insurgent forces.
FOR THE RECORD
An earlier version of this post said eight of Pitts' fellow soldiers were killed.
On Monday, those acts were rewarded with the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest award for valor in combat. Pitts is the ninth living recipient to receive the award for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan.
"Ryan worked the radio, helping target the airstrikes," President Obama said in awarding the medal. "And with those strikes, the tide of the battle began to turn.... Ryan and his fellow soldiers had held their ground."
Pitts, now 28, said he considered the medal a "memorial for the guys who didn't come home." He told the president that the award was an opportunity for the soldiers who fought that day to tell their story, saying, "There was valor everywhere."