Last week, Master Sergeant John Grimesey was awarded the Silver Star for his bravery and lifesaving actions in Afghanistan during a 2013 battle in Ghazni province.

During the battle, he was concussed and peppered with shrapnel from a rocket-propelled grenade blast. Then-Senior Airman John Grimesey felt Taliban bullets whiz by as he saw his Green Beret teammate injured on the ground nearby. His ears still ringing, the Air Force combat controller grabbed the wounded Green Beret soldier by his body armor and dragged him 25 feet to cover. He then turned his rifle on the Taliban attackers and got to work directing airstrikes from the F-16 fighters and AC-130 gunships circling overhead.

His Silver Star is an upgrade from a previously-awarded decoration.

During Friday’s ceremony at Pope Army Airfield, Lt. Gen. James C. Slife, Commander, Air Force Special Operations Command, who awarded Grimesey the Silver Star said, “Today we’re here to honor a man who stood in the midst of adversity and danger, and in doing so started a chain reaction in the lives of those around him.”

“Character is demonstrated on and off the battlefield. You lead by example and inspire us to be courageous, to live with integrity, and to persevere beyond the setbacks of our present conditions. You show us how to stand in the face of challenge and adversity. We need men like you today, not just in the military, but in a world hungry for hope.”

Throughout the battle, MSgt. Grimesey controlled 57 aircraft, executing 65 total air-to-ground strikes, safely integrating 123 indirect fire missions, and 34 danger close strikes. The Air Force credits him for killing 40 of the enemy and destroying 26 key enemy fighting positions.

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“Sgt. Grimesey’s selfless valor in the face of the enemy directly saved U.S. and Afghan lives that day,” Col. Alison Black, Vice Commander, 24th Special Operations Wing, Air Force Special Operations Command, said. “It’s that kind of gallantry that we are here to honor: complete disregard for personal safety, pressing ahead under intense enemy fire, the heroism of a high degree including the risk of life.”

The Virginia Tech graduate and Covington native said the lessons he learned while in high school and college prepared him for life outside of campus and for the scenarios he one could face abroad.

“I was able to save lives that day, not only the life of my teammate but those who were trapped, such as the Afghan police, inside the compound,” Grimesey said. “I am incredibly honored. There are a number of men and women who have earned the Silver Star who have done things that are extraordinarily heroic.”

During the ceremony, MSgt. Grimesey was additionally recognized for his actions during an ambush in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar Province, on the night of July 20, 2017. For that, he received the Bronze Star Medal, with a second oak leaf cluster with the “V” device for valor for his “quick and precise response” to the ambush.

MSgt. John Grimesey is now the flight chief for the 21st Special Tactics Squadron Headquartered at Pope Army Airfield, North Carolina. He lives in Carthage with his wife Rebecca, who also serves in the Air Force as a Technical Sergeant.