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Soldier awarded Distinguished Service Cross for picking up live grenade and throwing it back at the enemy
A soldier's Silver Star — which he originally believed to be "too much recognition" despite receiving it for playing hot potato with a live grenade and saving at least six others — has been upgraded to the Distinguished Service Cross.
Maj. Nicholas Eslinger received the award on May 3rd by Army Training and Doctrine Command head Gen. Stephen Townsend, the Army announced, who called Eslinger "an inspiration to all of us."
Eslinger received the original award for heroic actions in October 2008 when he was deployed to Iraq as a platoon leader in Company C, 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division. While on patrol in Samarra, Iraq, an enemy combatant threw a grenade at then-2nd Lt. Eslinger and his soldiers, which Eslinger immediately moved towards to protect those with him. When it didn't detonate, Eslinger picked up the grenade and threw it back to the enemy, where it detonated. The combatant was not killed in the blast, and was then captured by the soldiers.
"I remember the way the grenade felt in my hand," Eslinger said, per the Army's announcement. "I remember the taste of dust after the explosion. I remember the way I felt when they told me there were zero casualties. That was a good feeling."
Eslinger is currently attending the Command and General Staff Officer Course at Fort Leavenworth.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley gave the orders to have Eslinger's Silver Star upgraded in February 2019. Townsend said when he heard of the upgrade, "I immediately told the chief and vice, I want to do that one. I was there when he got the (Silver Star), I want to do this one."
Townsend told Eslinger at the ceremony that his reaction that day in Iraq is "hardwired into your DNA as a leader ... I am honored to serve in the Army that produces such leaders."
Eslinger was with his father, Bruce Behnke, his wife Calisse, and his 7- and 5-year-old daughters at the ceremony.
"The reason I moved toward the grenade instead of away from it is the same reason I've served for the last 10 years," he said. "It is the same reason I'll continue to serve until the Army tells me I can't serve."
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Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher will retire as a chief petty officer now that President Donald Trump has restored his rank.
"Before the prosecution of Special Warfare Operator First Class Edward Gallagher, he had been selected for promotion to Senior Chief, awarded a Bronze Star with a "V" for valor, and assigned to an important position in the Navy as an instructor," a White House statement said.
"Though ultimately acquitted on all of the most serious charges, he was stripped of these honors as he awaited his trial and its outcome. Given his service to our Nation, a promotion back to the rank and pay grade of Chief Petty Officer is justified."
The announcement that Gallagher is once again an E-7 effectively nullifies the Navy's entire effort to prosecute Gallagher for allegedly committing war crimes. It is also the culmination of Trump's support for the SEAL throughout the legal process.
On July 2, military jurors found Gallagher not guilty of premeditated murder and attempted murder for allegedly stabbing a wounded ISIS fighter to death and opening fire at an old man and a young girl on separate occasions during his 2017 deployment to Iraq.
Trump orders dismissal of murder charge against former Green Beret accused of killing a suspected Taliban bomb maker
President Donald Trump has ended the decade-long saga of Maj. Matthew Golsteyn by ordering a murder charge against the former Green Beret dismissed with a full pardon.
The Army charged Golsteyn with murder in December 2018 after he repeatedly acknowledged that he killed an unarmed Afghan man in 2010. Golsteyn's charge sheet identifies the man as "Rasoul."
President Donald Trump has signed a full pardon for former 1st Lt. Clint Lorance, who had been convicted of murder for ordering his soldiers to open fire on three unarmed Afghan men, two of whom were killed.
Lorance will now be released from the United States Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where he had been serving a 19-year sentence.
"He has served more than six years of a 19-year sentence he received. Many Americans have sought executive clemency for Lorance, including 124,000 people who have signed a petition to the White House, as well as several members of Congress," said a White House statement released Friday.
"The President, as Commander-in-Chief, is ultimately responsible for ensuring that the law is enforced and when appropriate, that mercy is granted. For more than two hundred years, presidents have used their authority to offer second chances to deserving individuals, including those in uniform who have served our country. These actions are in keeping with this long history. As the President has stated, 'when our soldiers have to fight for our country, I want to give them the confidence to fight.'"
Additionally, Trump pardoned Maj. Matthew Golsteyn, who was to go on trial for murder charges next year, and restored the rank of Navy SEAL Chief Edward Gallagher, who was found not guilty of murdering a wounded ISIS prisoner but convicted of taking an unauthorized photo with the corpse.
Fox News contributor Pete Hegseth first announced on Nov. 4 that the president was expected to intervene in the Lorance case was well as exonerate Army Maj. Matthew Golsteyn, who has been charged with murder after he admitted to killing an unarmed Afghan man whom he believed was a Taliban bomb maker, and restore Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher's rank to E-7.
For the past week, members of Lorance's family and his legal team have been holding a constant vigil in Kansas anticipating his release, said Lorance's attorney Don Brown.
Now that he has been exonerated of committing a war crime, Lorance wants to return to active duty, Brown told Task & Purpose on Wednesday.
"He loves the Army," Brown said prior to the president's announcement. "He doesn't have any animosity. He's hoping that his case – and even his time at Leavenworth – can be used for good to deal with some issues regarding rules of engagement on a permanent basis so that our warfighters are better protected, so that we have stronger presumptions favoring warfighters and they aren't treated like criminals on the South Side of Chicago."
In the Starz documentary "Leavenworth," Lorance's platoon members discuss the series of events that took place on July 2, 2012, when the two Afghan men were killed during a patrol in Kandahar province.They claim that Lorance ordered one of his soldiers to fire at three Afghan men riding a motorcycle. The three men got off their motorcycle and started walking toward Afghan troops, who ordered them to return to their motorcycle.
At that point, Lorance ordered the turret gunner on a nearby Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle to shoot the three men, according to the documentary. That order was initially ignored, but the turret gunner eventually opened fire with his M-240, killing two of the men.
But Lorance told the documentary makers that his former soldiers' account of what happened was "ill-informed."
"From my experience of what actually went down, when my guy fired at it, and it kept coming, that signified hostile intent, because he didn't stop immediately," Lorance said in the documentary's second episode.
Brown argues that not only is Lorance innocent of murder, he should never have been prosecuted in the first case.
"He made a call and when you look at the evidence itself, the call was made within a matter of seconds," Brown said "He would make that call again."
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