Seven Special Forces soldiers get medal for valor

Posted August 16, 2010

— Seven Special Forces soldiers were awarded the Silver Star on Monday at Fort Bragg for risking their own lives to save others in Afghanistan.

The medal for valor is the Army's third-highest decoration.

"Something much greater than yourself runs through your veins," Col. James Kraft told the soldiers during the ceremony.

The seven soldiers are from the 7th Special Forces Group, which is trained to deploy to Latin America but in recent years has frequently deployed to Afghanistan.

Staff Sgt. Daniel J. Gould and Staff Sgt. Mario Pinilla were on patrol in August 2008 when some Afghan villagers told them an ambush was set near a river in the Oruzgan Province. Gould was leading a group of Afghan soldiers when they came across about 20 enemy fighters in an orchard.

"The enemy kept saying they could hear us, but couldn't see us," Gould said in an interview with the Associated Press earlier this month. "They popped up and there was a whole slew of them. It was mutual shock."

Gould started shooting and called in his position on the radio.

Seven honored with Silver Star Seven honored with Silver Star

Soon, enemy rounds were exploding around him covering him in a cloud of debris and dirt. One bullet hit Gould's helmet, ripping it off of his head. Another round hit his body armor.

"I was pretty much out there hanging," he said. "We were in a world of hurt."

Pinilla saw that Gould was trapped in the open and could be overrun. Pinilla grabbed his machine gun, sprinted approximately 80 yards into enemy fire and set up his weapon near Gould. The added firepower kept the enemy at bay, Pinilla's award citation says. But when Pinilla stood to throw a grenade, he was hit in the lower back and upper left thigh.

After two other Special Forces teammates arrived, including a medic, Gould kept firing while the medic treated Pinilla's injuries.

Knowing that Pinilla needed to be evacuated, Gould helped the medic drag him to safety under fire until he finally lifted Pinilla onto his shoulders and carried him the final 40 yards to safety.

"We've all seen movies with guys trying to run up and save their friends and they get killed. That was kind of in the back of my head," Gould said.

One soldier was honored posthumously.

During an ambush in May 2008 in western Afghanistan, Sgt. 1st Class David Nunez, 27, of Raeford, kept firing his machine gun despite being wounded. After his vehicle caught fire, Nunez began to discard ammunition and explosives believing that other soldiers were trapped. Nunez was engulfed in flames and succumbed to his injuries.

Four others were also honored:

  • Sgt. 1st Class Jonathan Clouse ran through an ambush at least three times to give medical aid to four critically wounded special operations Marines and an Afghan soldier during a raid in Herat in June 2008. Even when a machine gun round skipped off his body armor, Clouse kept providing aid and eventually helped call in air strikes to break up the attack.
  • Sgt. 1st Class Antonio Gonzalez exposed himself to heavy enemy fire trying to rescue four Afghan soldiers, one of whom was fatally wounded, during an ambush in June 2008. Gonzalez saw the four were pinned down. Ordering his truck into the kill zone, he ran three times through the crossfire of enemy snipers and machine gunners to rescue the Afghans.
  • During the same ambush, Sgt. 1st Class Mark Roland led his team to a dried creek bed to provide cover fire. Unaware of an enemy position nearby, Roland and his team were attacked from less than 10 feet away. Roland charged the enemy fighters, throwing a grenade into the trench. Later, he led eight Afghan soldiers to safety after they were pinned down.
  • Master Sgt. Julio Bocanegra's team was attacked by a force three times its size in August 2008. Both Bocanegra's truck and an Afghan police truck were caught in the crossfire. Realizing that the policemen were hit, Bocanegra carried the three wounded Afghans to safety. His actions allowed the convoy to move out of the ambush.

Lt. General John F. Mulholland said the valor of the Special Operations and Special Forces has become almost commonplace “to the point where I’m afraid we’ve started to take it for granted, to the point where I’m afraid it is expected."


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  • JustOneGodLessThanU Aug 17, 2010

    Read the posts on GOLO stories, meBNme. Everytime there's a crime and the suspect has a Latino "haters" are out in droves with their verbal flame-throwers & beating their chests calling for deportation. But, they have no personal knowledge of the suspect's actual immigration status.

    Meanwhile, here's an American Hero, Sgt. Nunez, who gave his life for his fellow soldiers and his country. So, where are the calls to investigate HIS immigration status?

    Toddlermother nailed it..."not all Latinos are bad people or here illegally". The sooner people understand that, the better off we will all be. It's sad that this even needs to be said.

  • rbbugbite Aug 16, 2010

    My husband and I was touched and happy to see a report on these brave soldiers. We appreciate them all and don't get man opportunities to see them receive their accolades.

  • meBNme Aug 16, 2010

    WOW!!!! Awesome update WRAL, that tells their story pretty well for such a short clip. Those men deserve the honor and much more.

  • Commenter Aug 16, 2010

    "No mention of the other six? Not even their names?"

    Since they are Special Forces and continuing on duty, I suspect that they and the Army prefer that they remain anonymous.

  • harmstrong4 Aug 16, 2010

    The Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, Bronze Star with V Device for Valor.

  • meBNme Aug 16, 2010

    Eduardo1, you asked, you got your answers. Where are you now?

  • meBNme Aug 16, 2010

    Dr jones.... really!?? the "murder squad"?

    Now why would you twist a story of a hero into an attempt to bash a political view that you oppose?
    Especially when the death penalty for CRIMINALS who murder, rape and torture innocent people has absolutely nothing to do with the story of an American Hero.

    Is your world so vile that all you can see is negativity and condemnation?

  • meBNme Aug 16, 2010

    hereandnow, The "haters" have no problem with immigrants or latinos. it shows how racist you must be that you have to find racism in things such as this news story.

    Why must you bring such vile things as racism to the table?

    The "haters" you are so incorrectly steriotyping are against ILLEGAL....... imigration. Not legal imigration or the immigrants.

    Is your view so consumed by hatred of people with a different opinion that racism flows from you at every post?

  • BubbaDuke Aug 16, 2010

    The Defense Distinguised Service Medal comes after the Medal of Honor, then the Silver Star. Still, it's not given out lightly. The qualifications to receive service medals, and the review process that goes into each one is painstaking and lengthy.

    God bless our military and their families.

  • robster Aug 16, 2010

    Condolensces to SFC Nunez's family.
    The highest medal for valor is the Congressional Medal of Honor, then the Silver Star, and then I think the Bronze Star?