RENO, Nev. (KRNV & MyNews4.com) - More than a decade later, eight members of the Nevada Air National Guard received Combat Action Medals in a ceremony at the Guard's Base Wing Auditorium.
The tenacity of the Guard's leadership and Nevada Senator Harry Reid are credited for making sure the men received recognition for an hour long battle that happened during a February night in 2002 at Viognier Air Force Base. The men were members of the Guard's 152nd Security Forces Squadron.
Master Sergeant Clinton Dudley said, "We were engaged by fire while we were outside the perimeter of Viognier base and there was small arms fire, machine gun fire and mortars fired at us."
Dudley says the battle happened so quickly, "It was something that we didn't expect but when it took place, it was scary at times and we're just thankful to have gotten out alive and uninjured." He also said there was one thing on his mind, "Our goal was to go in as a tea and come back as a team." Despite being singled out with the others to receive a medal, he still thinks in terms of team spirit adding, "I feel like we're a direct representation of the entire air national guard and what we do."
His colleague, Master Sergeant Jerry Miller, who is now retired, is also very humble about today's award. He said, "We were fortunate enough to go over there and serve our country and very thankful for what we did over there and very grateful to come home." He said he often thinks of that night and his time while serving in Afghanistan. "It was a surreal moment in my life and you never... You train for this day in and day out as a military person but you never really expect it to happen."
While he and the other men were hailed as heroes today, he doesn't see himself that way. "I just see myself as an average person who just wants to go out and do good in the community and try to make a difference in somebody else's life and do the best we can for the short time we're here on this Earth," he said.
In addition to Dudley and Miller the other members of the Guard who were honored today include:
-SMSgt. Michael Del Soldato, who was a fire team leader at the time. His hometown is Sparks, NV.
-MSgt (Ret.) John Blevins was a member of the quad with assigned primary duty of defensive security operations. His hometown is Reno, Nevada.
-Capt Lawrence Chappell was a member of the squad with assigned primary duties of defensive security operations. His hometown is Pleasanton, CA.
-CMSgt (Ret.) Todd Shipley was a squad leader with assigned primary duties of defensive security operations. His hometown is Reno, NV.
-MSgt Harry Wheeler was a member of the squad with an assigned primary duty of defensive security operations.
-MSgt David McNeely was the duty controller and positioned in the unfortified Air Traffic Control tower. His hometown is Reno, NV.
-MSgt (Ret.) Danial (sic) Baldridge did not receive the Combat Medal in the ceremony but is expected to once the paperwork is completed. His hometown is Reno, NV.