MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- He stood in front of his beloved Corps’ battle standard in the company of friends, commanders and subordinates alike, proudly wearing one of the nation’s most prestigious decorations on his uniform’s left breast pocket.
And despite the commotion and praise he received, all Lt. Col. William Jurney could think to do was thank the Marines and sailors who had made this moment possible.
“I am humbled to have received this award today,” the Statesville, N.C. native said after accepting his Bronze Star Medal with combat distinguishing device here Jan. 17. “I’ve been extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to serve with such a brave group of young Americans. This award today recognizes the sacrifice, courage and commitment that every one of these men demonstrated day in and day out while performing their duty to their country.”
The Bronze Star Medal is the fourth highest award given a U.S. service member for bravery, heroism or meritorious service. Jurney, who commands the Camp Lejeune-based 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, was presented this award for his courageous leadership during the unit’s deployment to Iraq from March through October 2005.
During this time, the 1982 North Iredell High School graduate’s battalion conducted more than 4,000 raids and patrols throughout Northern Fallujah and the nearby rural village of Saqlawiyah, netting approximately 250 insurgents. All the while, he devised tactics to reduce the number of improvised explosive device attacks along main supply routes, and directed fires and evacuation efforts during two insurgent attacks on his forces.
Everyday, he would move about the area of operations to supervise such missions, along with constantly meeting with Iraqi and U.S. leaders to plan community infrastructure redevelopment and humanitarian operations to help rebuild the war-torn area.
“Our Marines and sailors focused on hunting down those coward terrorist elements that had no regard whatsoever for human life,” Jurney stated. “On any given day, you could see my Marines putting up blackboards in a school we were rebuilding, finding booby trapped explosive devices or engaging insurgents in one-on-one firefights.”
Shouldering such a burden of command is nothing new for Jurney, a veteran of nearly 19 years of service and whose father was also a Marine.
Shortly after graduating from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in 1986, Jurney attended recruit training aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C. Afterward, he was assigned to security forces with the Marine Barracks in Guam.
In 1988, Jurney was commissioned through the Enlisted Commissioning Program. Throughout the following years, he served in Operations Desert Shield/Desert Storm and in support of the initial entry into Kosovo.
Since then, Jurney has attained his masters degree in military studies and served as Recruiting Station Baltimore’s commanding officer prior to assuming command of his present unit in October 2004.
Currently, Jurney keeps an energetic, positive outlook as he prepares his unit for yet another deployment to Iraq. He continues relying on the support of his wife, Sue Ellen of Harmony, N.C., and his battle-tempered warriors to continue the fight on terrorism overseas.
“These are some of the finest Marines a commander could ever hope to have on his team,” Jurney stated. “They are truly amazing young men, and I couldn’t be prouder of everything they’ve accomplished.”
Despite the importance of this military service, Jurney believes his hometown community and everyone across the U.S. plays a vital role in keeping his country great.
“In order to keep the values and freedoms we hold dear, everyone must serve with whatever talents and abilities they have,” he continued. “I’d like to think I just happened to find my calling as a United States Marine.”