The Patriot Ledger

FORT DEVENS - Timothy Connors stood motionless and ramrod straight as the details of his heroism were read aloud.

It was 18 months ago in the midst of a firefight in Fallujah, Iraq, that Connors, then a sergeant, led fellow Marines in a rescue mission into a heavily defended house to retrieve the body of one of their mates.

‘‘Under intense enemy machine gun fire and without regard to his personal safety ... Connors eliminated the enemy with hand grenades and deadly accurate small-arms fire at close proximity,’’ read the citation from Secretary of the Navy Donald C. Winter.

On Saturday, the circumstances couldn’t have been more different. Standing in an open field on a Massachusetts military base and wearing a crisp gray suit, Connors, 23, of Braintree, was awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in action.

‘‘You are looking at an American hero,’’ Lt. Col. Peter Conlan told the dozens of relatives, friends and Marines on hand for the ceremony on a chilly spring day at Fort Devens.

The Silver Star is the third highest award a Marine can earn for heroism, behind the Medal of Honor and the Navy Cross.

Conlan pinned the medal on Connors’ jacket as a Marine color guard and two squads of Marines stood at attention.

‘‘It’s a great honor,’’ Connors said after the ceremony.

Connors enlisted in the Marine Corps after graduating from Braintree High School in 2001. In November 2004, he was serving in Iraq as a squad leader with the 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 7, 1st Marine Division, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force.

While clearing houses from enemy control, his platoon came under heavy fire. Connors began directing the fire of his troops as they attempted to move into surrounding buildings for cover.

As the squad entered a building, the first Marine in, Lance Cpl. Travis Desiato of Bedford, was killed by enemy fire. Determined to re-enter the building to retrieve Desiato’s body, Connors and the other Marines engaged in a five-hour battle.

At one point, Connors peeked around a corner to toss a grenade only to see one from the enemy going right past him. Ultimately, a tank was called in to blast away at the enemy position, allowing the Marines to retrieve Desiato’s body.

Connors said that although he was trained to process all that was going on around him, he was focused at the time on finishing the mission, not on whether what he was doing was brave.

‘‘I went in there to get the kid out, not to get a medal,’’ he said.

Connors was in a number of other firefights in Iraq and even landed on the cover of Popular Mechanics magazine. He was discharged from the Marines in November and has applied for admission to the College of the Holy Cross.

‘‘We’re very proud of Timothy,’’ said Connors’ mother, Theresa.

He said he is adjusting well to being back home, although the lack of a set regimen had him off balance for a while. It also took some time for Connors to become reacquainted with his family and friends.

‘‘I’ve missed a lot of their lives, and they’ve missed a lot of mine,’’ he said.

The ceremony was hosted by the 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, which is based at Fort Devens in Ayer, as it is the closest Marine home base to Braintree.

It featured the playing of the battalion’s official song, ‘‘Waltzing Matilda,’’ as well as ‘‘The Marine Corps Hymn’’ and ‘‘Anchors Aweigh,’’ the official song of the U.S. Navy.

U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch, who recently returned from his fifth visit to Iraq, cited Aristotle, who said no one shows more courage than the citizen-soldier.

‘‘That is what you did when you answered the call,’’ Lynch said. ‘‘For that you have the thanks of a grateful nation.’’