View Full Version : Woodbridge Marine awarded Silver Star

12-26-05, 06:46 AM
Woodbridge Marine awarded Silver Star
Camp Pendleton Marine Corps base
Monday, December 26, 2005

A Marine from Woodbridge was one of two officers who were awarded the Silver Star - the nation's third highest award for combat heroism - earlier this month.

While isolated and outnumbered, Capt. Christopher J. Bronzi of Poughquag, N.Y., directed his Marines in a deadly assault from a rooftop. The assault contributed to the elimination of 250 insurgents.

Maj. Robert S. Weiler of Woodbridge led the quick-reaction force that came to Bronzi's aid when he was cornered. He also commanded his men on various occasions to counterattack the enemy while facing a barrage of bullets.

For their actions in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2004, they both were awarded the Silver Star at the Camp Pendleton Marine Corps base in California. The medals were presented by Maj. Gen. Richard F. Natonski, commanding general for 1st Marine Division.

"I'm wearing this medal because of the performance of this battalion," Weiler said following the ceremony. He was a company commander for 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines while in Iraq.

Bronzi, another company commander with the Pendleton-based unit, also credited his Marines for his motivation.

"I can't tell you how many heroics there were at that time. Our men were so relentless and tenacious, the enemy didn't stand a chance," Bronzi said.

According to their citations, both officers exemplified greatness.

Bronzi repeatedly exposed himself to intense small arms and rocket-propelled grenade fire, while personally destroying several enemy fighting positions.

"He would be in the middle of the street directing fire; he would do it because he knew it would motivate his Marines," said Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Keith A. Grimes, senior corpsman for Company G at the time.

Until Weiler arrived, Bronzi led the embattled squad to the designated rally point and eventually to the safety of the company firebase, eliminating the enemy in the process.

According to the citation, Weiler, then a captain, led elements of Weapons Company against an enemy force that was attempting to isolate and destroy a squad-sized element of Company E.

"His calm demeanor allowed him to maintain control on the battlefield because he trusted in his [non-commissioned officers]," said Gunnery Sgt. Anthony L. Crutcher, 2/4 Headquarters and Support Company.

"(He) never broke a sweat or flinched," said Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael V. Rakebrandt.

As the Marines moved east in Iraq, they were ambushed by enemy forces. Despite the barrage of intense enemy fire, Weiler calmly directed the tactical employment of the unit, leading to relief of the embattled squad and the destruction of the besieging enemy, according to the citation.

On April 7, Weiler led the company on a mission to reinforce a unit in contact with the enemy. As they moved northeast, the Marines encountered heavy rocket-propelled grenade and automatic weapons fire. During the ensuing three-hour firefight, Weiler repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire to direct the unit counterattack, personally leading squads as they assaulted enemy firing positions.

"You could see him by his vehicle giving directions while bullets were flying by his head," said Rakebrandt, senior corpsman for Weapons Company at the time.

During Operation Bug Hunt, while Weiler was heavily engaged by enemy forces over a four-hour period, he continued to fearlessly lead Marines as they destroyed a tenacious enemy, according to the citation.

"Those guys are dedicated to (the welfare) of their men. They wouldn't sleep. They would be right by the radio by the base ready to go out into the fight," Rakebrandt said.

"If he said 'Let's go to war right now,' I'd go," said Grimes about Bronzi. "I'd follow the man into the gates of hell ... best officer I've ever worked for."

Both Rakebrandt and Grimes said they re-enlisted just so they could serve with their officers.

"They're the finest caliber of Marine Corps officers I've ever came across," Grimes said.