Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C. --
The sun drew behind the clouds in quiet reverence as the Marines of 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division gathered into formation aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, recently.
Family members and friends braved the dropping temperatures to see the presentation of the Bronze Star with combat distinguishing device, the armed service’s fourth-highest award for valor, to Staff Sgt. Christopher J. Whitman and Sgt. Marcus B. Holan.
During combat operations in Marjah, Afghanistan, Whitman was instrumental in securing two bridgeheads, opening lines of communication and clearing enemy strong points. He repeatedly risked his life by exposing himself to small-arms and rocket-propelled grenade fire in order to defeat enemy insurgents.
“As a platoon sergeant, you are recognized for the actions of the Marines you lead,” said Whitman, a Clearwater, Fla. native. “I was an enabler for Marines to do what they’ve done forever. As far as I’m concerned, I just happen to be the one who gets to wear what the 39 other people in my platoon deserve.”
Sergeant Holan also received the award for courageous actions in combat while deployed overseas.
While conducting a clearing mission in Marjah, enemy insurgents ambushed Holan’s platoon. In order to combat the threat, he maneuvered his squad and led them under heavy enemy fire. Once within effective range, he fired a light antitank weapon silencing the enemy. He continued toward the compound and eliminated two enemy insurgents with a fragmentation grenade before maneuvering his squad to an over-watch position.
“It was about the Marines out there,” said Holan. “Without the supporting arms, we wouldn’t have made it. Other than that we were just doing what we had to do.”
During the last deployment, 3/6 received a total of seven Bronze Stars, 32 Navy Commendation Medals with combat distinguishing device and 86 Purple Hearts.
“Many of these Marines are serving as the leadership foundation for the Battalion,” said Maj. Michael F. Arnone, the executive officer for 3/6 . “These Marines are a shining example and we entrust them to welcome and mentor new Marines, from their induction at the French Fourragere ceremony to future overseas deployments.”
The Marines were dismissed from formation once the battalion commander presented the medals. A light rain fell upon the newly awarded medals, reflecting the valor these Marines bestowed in the face of the enemy.
“This is a piece of history,” said Lt. Col. Daniel A. Schmitt, the battalion commander for 3/6. “My son was reading a book of heroes and war and he was reading citations from ages ago that read just like these. This is absolutely a piece of Marine Corps history and heritage that people will be reading in their history books years from now. The sense of pride is overwhelming.”