FORT PICKETT, Va. -- “In the name of the minister of defense, we hand you the National Defense Bronze Medal,” was read from the citation for Capt. Sean Mellon, here, March 22.
The French National Defense Medal is awarded to individuals for honorable service to France. Mellon, a logistics officer with 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, received the award for his service in Haiti from March to June 2004.
The medal is awarded on three different levels, bronze, silver and gold. Silver and gold awards are presented to individuals who’ve served in the French military for several years, while bronze recipients must serve France for several months. Awards to civilians and foreigners are handled on a case-by-case basis by the French minister of defense.
Mellon was a first lieutenant at the time and served as the aide-de-campé for the commanding officer of Combined Joint Task Force Haiti helping integrate the French troops assigned to the multinational force.
“The team created during Operation Secure Tomorrow was a demonstration of the best the militaries of the world has to offer,” Mellon said. “The mission would not have been accomplished without that team of different nations.”
In the last five years, the Jacksonville, N.C., native has deployed six times, including his service in Haiti. Mellon was pivotal in promoting joint and international contacts while deployed there. He kept the deputy commander of the task force, a French colonel, informed of the commander’s schedule and the numerous visits by various officials, which ultimately earned Mellon the medal.
The award was presented to him at a Military Operations in Urban Terrain facility by Lt. Col. Didier Gros, assistant military attaché to the French embassy in Washington, D.C. A platoon of French and U.S. Marines stood in formation listening as the citation was read.
“I never expected to receive any recognition for a job that was done by joint and coalition forces to support the people of Haiti,” Mellon said about receiving the award. “Receiving the medal was one of the most humbling experiences of my life.”
Before presenting the award to Mellon, Gros spoke about the history of French and American relations. He cited how French and American forces have cooperated and fought alongside each other since the Battle of Yorktown in 1781. Gros talked about how these bonds of friendship and camaraderie are still seen today in regions across the world.
Mellon said he was surprised to receive the award and feels he was only doing his job.
“The important thing is making sure the Marines get what they need out in the field,” Mellon said.
Mellon will be leaving the battalion in the next few months for Expeditionary Warfare School in Quantico, Va.