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Thread: PSHS grad gets Bronze Star
02-04-07, 03:45 AM #1
PSHS grad gets Bronze Star
PSHS grad gets Bronze Star
(Created: Saturday, February 3, 2007 10:02 PM CST)
Heroism is part of this Gunny's job
By Josh Hixson, Staff Writer
A hero will tell you "It's all in a day's work".
When a day's work requires dodging improvised explosive devices, saving the lives of fellow Marines and operating in harm's way, the story gets a lot more interesting.
Gunnery Sgt. Shelby Lasater, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines, will receive the Bronze Star Medal today for service to his country in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom from September 2005 to March 2006. One of the numerous incidents listed in Lasater's letter of commendation - which earned him the medal - outlines an instance where he reacted quickly to save lives and restore order to a nightmarish situation.
The letter reads: "On 7 December 2005, Lima Company was caught in a complex IED ambush in western Ramadi. One Marine was slightly injured and six Marines suffered traumatic amputations of one or both legs, while an eighth was terribly burned by the huge fuel-assisted projective explosion.
Gunnery Sergeant Lasater was in charge of the Battalion Quick Reaction Force. He rapidly responded to the scene and took charge of the chaotic situation. He dismounted his vehicle exposing himself to great danger from the burning 7-ton truck and additional IEDs. He transported two of the urgent surgical casualties to Ramadi Medical and then returned to the scene to assist with recovering body parts and the vehicle recovery.
His leadership and calm demeanor were instrumental to the rapid casualty evacuation and restoring order to the scene."
Lasater would later become platoon commander after his lieutenant, Almar Fitzgerald was killed in action.
Lasater is a 1991 graduate of Plano Senior High School who joined the Marines in February of that year after graduating a semester early. He said living a war zone never became routine, but remaining alert and aware of the danger did.
"You had highs and lows. There are times when you are extremely scared and there are times when you felt extremely safe. It depends on where you were at," Lasater said. "When I say scared I don't mean a coward, because I mean you would be nervous about being shot. You have to be careful about feeling safe because it can turn into complacency. Complacency is the number one killer in my mind."
Signs hang around Iraq that read 'complacency kills' reminding Marines that monotony can be their greatest enemy, according to Lasater. He compared being deployed in Iraq to police work in gang territory in the United States.
"It was like we were the police and the insurgents were gang members. The people lived among the insurgents in fear, and we were in our bases like police stations," Lasater said. "Day to day it was very much like 'Ground Hog Day.' Day to day we were doing the same thing, and it makes time go by fast."
While gang members in the United States proudly display gang colors, in Iraq, properly identifying the enemy can be much harder.
"Ninety-nine percent of the women weren't trigger pullers. They weren't shooting at you," Lasater said. "It was definitely hard. We had to profile people and watch the area. If there were kids in the area there was a good chance that we wouldn't be engaged. If they did engage us with kids in the area then chances are the insurgent wasn't from the local area."
Lasater firmly believes his service in Iraq is vital to helping the Iraqi people gain their indepence.
"Do I think what we are doing over there is the right thing? Absolutely. I am behind (the war in Iraq) 100 percent. I will go back over there to do it right now," Lasater said. "People want this quick turnaround of democracy in a country. It just doesn't happen that way."
He said the Iraqi people don't share the same nationalism experienced here in the United States.
"They have a very strong family bond. They are very loyal to their family and their tribe," Lasater said. "After that, it gets weaker and weaker."
Regardless of the cultural differences Lasater said his experiences in Iraq have shown him the people wanted their freedom from Saddam Hussein's rule.
"I have seen what the (Sadaam Hussein) has done," Lasater said. "I have talked to people. They want freedom; They want democracy. It is just not going to come overnight."
He said the best part of spending 16 years in the United States Marine Corps was the tremendous sense of brotherhood shared by all Marines.
"The brotherhood is unbelievable," Lasater said. "You will always have friction. There are people that you will always disagree with. No matter what you agree or disagree on you will always cover each other's back."
Contact staff writer Josh Hixson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 972-398-4255.
02-04-07, 07:25 AM #2
A Bronze Star for a local hero
February 4, 2007 12:51 am
THE BRONZE STAR medal is a military honor given for outstanding heroic or meritorious service in a combat situation. Today, at the U.S. Marine Corps Museum at Quantico, Gunnery Sgt. Shelby Lasater will receive his.
I first met Shelby about 10 years ago when I was teaching a Bible study called "Experiencing God." Since then, he's been to Iraq twice. When I asked him last week if he'd had any spiritual experiences over there, he said, "Every day was a spiritual experience." There's something about begin shot at, about facing IEDs and incoming mortars, that brings your own life and purpose into sharp focus.
Now a 16-year Marine veteran, Shelby is typically reticent to talk about his heroics. Like many combat veterans, he prefers to speak of his platoon, his comrades in arms, and about simply doing his job. Still, even a nonveteran like me can read between the lines of award commendations.
Shelby told me he knew he wanted to join the Corps in seventh grade, the first time he met his future brother-in-law, who was already a Marine. When he signed on the dotted line four years later, a recruiter was happy--Shelby's mother was not.
He saw his first combat in Somalia, in Mogadishu. He came home, married his wife, Lorie, and had three sons. Then came Iraq.
His first tour took place in the desert of western Iraq near the Syrian border, in 2004. The area was a major artery for foreign fighters streaming into the country. I asked him about the reaction of the local Iraqis to Americans. "People want to be free," he replied. "They want to be able to have their own business, make money, raise a family." The concept of sacrificing for their nation, however, wasn't a strong motivator.
Shelby's Marine unit faced IEDs, heavy machine-gun fire, mortars--the whole arsenal of hostile action. He did everything from coordinating air support to keep insurgents from re-entering a city in the middle of a battle, to performing CPR on a wounded Marine. It's clear from military reports that he led his unit courageously.
"His calm in the face of the enemy and treatment of mass casualties was an inspiration to all Marines during the engagement," the recommendation for his Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal reads.
After a respite in Twentynine Palms, Calif., Shelby drew a second tour in Iraq, which was just fine with him. He says the Marines he knows are glad to come home, but after 30 to 40 days, they're ready to go back. "I don't know if it's the adrenaline or what," he told me.
This time Shelby was sent to Ramadi, a city of several hundred thousand people west of Fallujah. There, his unit faced urban warfare every day. "We conducted combat patrols doing everything from security to raids--there was a lot more fighting," he told me.
He said he was hard on his troops--he didn't want anyone to become complacent. Complacent is what gets you killed. Together he and his platoon operated as a "quick reaction force"--the military equivalent of a SWAT team. They extracted snipers, conducted medevacs, searched for "high value targets," and performed counter-IED missions.
They were constantly in battle.
During one night mission a year ago, the worst happened: The platoon ran into an IED attack. One of the rear vehicles was hit. Then the platoon leader, 2nd Lt. Almar Fitzgerald, was fatally wounded and Cpl. Matt Conley was killed instantly when an IED went off under their Humvee. Conley was a couple of weeks from going home early to be present for the birth of his first child, a little girl.
With eight Marines wounded, two vehicles destroyed, and the rest of them under enemy fire, Shelby took charge that night, calling in air support, arranging for assistance, and protecting the rest of his men and the vehicles. It took four hours to quell the assault and get men and machines back to safety.
For the next three months, Shelby would act as platoon commander, leading his men "through three months of chaotic and dangerous combat operation," according to his commendation.
I asked Shelby, who is now stationed at the Pentagon with the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization, what he thought about the politicians protesting the president's Iraq policies.
"You know," he said, "whether he's right or whether he's wrong, he is the president. If you don't like him, vote him out in two years." Until then, says Shelby, the quibbling and second-guessing is nothing but political hot air.
"What fries me," he says, "is that the country doesn't support itself anymore. It's just like football. You can always find football fans who are loyal as long as their team is winning. When the team starts losing, they pull back and start complaining. We don't have the stomach to sustain a long war," he notes. "We're so hurry-up."
The troops, he said, are not afraid of the battle. They're well-trained and very brave. They can do the job--if the politicians will let them.
The recommendation for Shelby's Bronze Star Medal says, "Gunnery Sergeant Lasater's superior leadership and sturdy professionalism were an invaluable asset to the company" and notes his "zealous initiative, courageous actions and exceptional dedication to duty." Today his mother will be on hand to watch him receive his medal, and I know she is proud.
Sixteen years to the day after he joined the Marines, it's clear Shelby Lasater was born to be one.
Linda J. White is an editorial writer and columnist for The Free Lance-Star.
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