MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- The Marine proudly stood on the stage overlooking a crowd of his peers; a major general was before him. The general pinned a Bronze Star on the Marine’s blouse pocket and shook his hand, congratulating him.
Sgt. Jason A. Gagliano, a squad leader with 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment received the medal for heroic achievement in connection with combat operations in Fallujah, Iraq, while in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Gagliano’s unit was conducting a reconnaissance patrol on Jan. 7, when they were attacked with small arms fire from an unknown location.
“We went out on a lot of patrols, and you can’t help but think each time you go out patrolling that you’re going to get attacked,” Gagliano said.
During the attack, two of Gagliano’s Marines were mortally wounded, he explained. “We were shot at out of nowhere and one of my Marines was shot, another Marine tried to retrieve him but he was shot as well.”
Gagliano ordered his squad to suppress the enemy with heavy fire as he threw a smoke grenade to help conceal his squad.
“I had to think quickly, even though we had Marines down, I had to make sure no one else got hit while we tried to rescue the Marines,” Gagliano explained.
A corpsman with his squad, who ran out to get one of the Marines, was shot as his squad suppressed the enemy.
Despite the heavy rifle fire, Gagliano directed one team to return fire in the enemies’ direction while he led Marines into the street to recover the wounded Marines on three separate occasions.
“The only thing I could think about was getting my Marines to safety and getting my fallen Marines out of the hot zone,” he explained. “A lot goes through your head when you get engaged in a fire fight, but we went through so many exercises that my body just took over and knew exactly what to do.”
Gagliano established a casualty collection point for the medical evacuation and directed follow-on forces toward the suspected enemy position once the entire squad had moved to safety.
“Our main worry was getting everyone to safety, but once we accomplished that, I knew we needed to send Marines back out to fight,” Gagliano said.
The two Marines from his squad died from gunshot wounds but because of Gagliano’s quick thinking he saved the life of the corpsman attached to his squad.
“I was sad to know that my Marines died, but I knew I did everything I could do, and if there was anything else that could’ve been done to save them I would’ve done anything.”
Gagliano thinks that if he received the Bronze Star, so should every Marine in his squad.
“It was a squad effort and nobody would have made it unless we had everyone there doing their jobs,” Gagliano stated.
Receiving the award, however, was an extremely humbling and proud experience, for him.
“It makes me proud to think that someone believes I earned this medal, the Bronze Star isn’t your average medal,” Gagliano said.
Because of his zealous initiative, courageous actions and exceptional dedication to duty, Gagliano reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest tradition of the Marine Corps, and will hold the memory of his fallen Marines close to him for the rest of his days.