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09-11-09, 09:40 AM #1
Kane'ohe Marine awarded Bronze Star for valor in combat
September 11, 2009
Kane'ohe Marine awarded Bronze Star for valor in combat
By Eloise Aguiar
Advertiser Staff Writer
MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII — As the blast and smoke of five rocket-propelled grenades dazed members of the Afghan army and their Marine trainers, all Cpl. Ian Parrish could think of was making the enemy stop.
Parrish and the others were accustomed to attacks on Firebase Vimoto from enemy positions high across the Korengal Valley, a narrow gorge about 500 meters across.
But the firefight on Sept. 26, 2007, was particularly fierce, with enemy forces launching everything they had at Parrish and the corpsman with him in a bunker running low on ammunition.
At first, Parrish returned fire with an M-249 automatic weapon but switched to a MK-19 40 mm Grenade Launcher until it jammed.
The attack was annoying, he said.
"We were all sick of getting shot at," Parrish said yesterday at Marine Corps Base Hawaii at Kane'ohe Bay. "That's pretty much all that went through my head was this thing is giving us problems and it needed to be taken care of."
Parrish said five rocket-propelled grenades landed on his bunker, knocking him and the corpsman out of the fight for a few minutes.
Back into action with a heavy machine gun, he said he began to run out of ammunition.
At some point he was out of his bunker and returning fire when — from out of nowhere — an Army scout handed him an AT-4 rocket launcher that he aimed at the brightest flash from across the valley.
"It pretty much neutralized the machine gun that was keeping us down and about 10 minutes later, it ended," Parrish said.
For his actions, Parrish received a Bronze Star with Valor yesterday at the chapel at Marine Corps Base Hawaii.
The citation for the award recalled a much fiercer battle and said the troops came under heavy volume of effective enemy fire. Despite being dazed from the concussion and smoke of the grenade blasts, Parrish immediately returned fire, first from the automatic weapon and then the grenade launcher.
He exposed himself to enemy attack when leaving the bunker and crawled to a position to best launch the rocket that destroyed the target, the citation said.
"Cpl. Parrish displayed uncommon valor and courage throughout the fight by maintaining a heavy volume of machine gun fire on the enemy and knocking out the enemy position with an AT-4 rocket," the citation said.
Yesterday at the base chapel, Brig Gen. James Laster from Okinawa presented the Bronze Star to Parrish, who has since been promoted to sergeant and will be medically retired this month due to injuries he suffered in a subsequent firefight.
He'll return to his home in Plainwell, Mich., with his wife, Rachel, and 5-month old daughter, Haylee.
Laster said he was proud of Parrish and honored to be his commanding general.
"I'm very honored that he asked me to give him the award," Laster said after the ceremony. "On behalf of the President and our Commandant, we are all very appreciative of his sacrifice and his bravery."
Parrish, 25, was a tactical trainer and part of a 17-man team for the Afghanistan National Army with the Embedded Training Team 5-2 Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan out of Marine Corps Base Hawaii.
Marines are hand-selected for the duty and certified to be teachers and mentors. Their goal is to train Afghan soldiers so they can operate without U.S. troops, said Maj. Bart Battista, Parrish's commander in Afghanistan.
"They have to be very capable and independent operators and know how to do everything," Battista said. "As a corporal, he was giving advice to a commander on how to deploy his forces. That's the level of knowledge Sgt. Parrish has."
This was not the first time Parrish and his bunker partner, Corpsman Mark Cannon, had come under fire, Master Gunnery Sgt. Douglas Thurston said before the ceremony.
For the period the team was stationed in Afghanistan, July 2007 to April 2008, Thurston, Parrish's NCO, said he logged about 150 firefights for the team for which 34 medals were awarded.
"Out of the 150, (Parrish) and (Corpsman) Doc. Cannon were involved in about 75 of those (firefights)," he said. "So this one incident is one of many."
Six days later in another firefight, Cannon died and Parrish was wounded and evacuated, Thurston said.
09-11-09, 09:58 AM #2
A Marine sergeant earns a medal for bravery for single-handedly destroying an insurgent post
By Gregg K. Kakesako
POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Sep 11, 2009
A 2007 firefight against insurgents in Afghanistan led to the presentation of a medal for bravery to a Kaneohe Marine who was severely wounded in another battle just weeks later.
In a ceremony yesterday at Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe, Sgt. Ian Parrish, 25, received the Bronze Star with Valor from Brig. Gen. James Laster, commanding general of the 3rd Marine Division, based in Okinawa.
Maj. Bart Battista, who led Parrish's training unit embedded with Afghan forces, said the medal was "much deserved."
Parrish is credited with risking his life on Sept. 26, 2007, when he single-handedly destroyed an enemy position with an anti-tank rocket.
The Pentagon uses embedded training teams of soldiers and Marines to train the Afghan army in weapons, tactics, first aid, hygiene and leadership.
Parrish's embedded team of Kaneohe Marines was stationed at Firebase Vimoto in the Korengal Valley, a base that Parrish described as only "about 100 yards (wide) and surrounded by barbed wire."
Parrish's award citation says that three rocket-propelled grenades hit the sandbagged bunker where Parrish and a Navy corpsman, Petty Officer 3rd Class Mark Cannon, were spending the night.
"The rockets knocked me and corpsman out," Parrish recalled.
Battista said that when Parrish recovered, he climbed out of the bunker and fired back with a machine gun and a grenade launcher at the enemy position more than a half-mile away on an opposing ridge.
When the grenade launcher failed, Parrish grabbed an AT-4 anti-tank rocket launcher, then "crawled to a position to best launch a rocket, resulting in a direct impact on the enemy position, which destroyed and neutralized the target," the citation says.
Parrish said he just "picked the largest flash" on the ridge and fired. Reports indicated later that more than 20 insurgents were killed in that night attack.
Master Gunnery Sgt. Douglas Thurston, the highest-ranking noncommissioned officer in Parrish's 17-member team, said it took nearly two years to validate Parrish's award because the only witness was Cannon, who was killed in another attack on Oct. 2, 2007.
In that second attack, in northeastern Afghanistan near the Pakistani border, Parrish was shot three times, once in the lung. He also almost lost sight in his left eye.
Cannon, who rushed to treat Parrish's wounds, was posthumously awarded a Bronze Star with Valor for his actions.
As a result of his wounds, Parrish is choosing medical retirement from the Marine Corps later this month.
"I couldn't do what I wanted to do in the Marine Corps," he said before yesterday's ceremony. "It would have been hard to get promoted, so I decided to cut my losses."
Thurston said that one of his jobs was to keep a record of the firefights his team was in during its nearly nine-month Afghan deployment.
"There were at least 150 of them," Thurston said, "and he (Parrish) was involved in 75 of them."
The awards ceremony at the base chapel was attended by 50 Kaneohe Marines belonging to two separate embedded training teams that returned from Afghanistan last week.
Laster noted that three Marines and one Navy corpsman assigned to an embedded training team from Okinawa were killed Tuesday in Afghanistan.
He said he wants to convey to the families and Marines in Okinawa and at Kaneohe that "we're over there for a good purpose ... to ensure it becomes stable."
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