25-year-old Marine 1st Lt. David Russell wasn’t expecting a fight in the moments before the battle that’d ultimately earn him the military’s third-highest award for valor. In fact, he was shaving his face when the first grenade exploded just beyond the wall of sandbags that stood between his platoon’s command-and-control building and the embattled streets of Ramadi, where hit-and-run attacks on American troops frequently occurred. But the sound of heavy-machine gunfire told Russell this attack was of a different nature. The enemy was determined, and close.

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