A Green Beret credited with fighting off Taliban attackers in Afghanistan spoke out Monday in his first interview since the Army denied his commanders’ recommendation for a Medal of Honor, awarding him a Silver Star instead.

“I kind of have a lot of trust in the system, but if somebody says it’s broken, maybe it is,” Staff Sgt. Earl D. Plumlee told The Washington Post. “But I’m always leery of decisions like this getting reversed.”

He said senior commanders in Afghanistan — including Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, now Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — wrote that he deserved the Medal of Honor, but the Army’s Senior Decorations Board recommended the Silver Star, an award considered two levels lower. Army Secretary John McHugh approved the Silver Star.

Plumlee rushed to the site of a car bombing outside a coalition military base in central Afghanistan in the summer of 2013, the Post reported. As many as 10 armed Taliban attackers reportedly tried storming Forward Operating Base Ghazni through a damaged wall. At least one attacker detonated a suicide vest.

Troops including Plumlee returned fire. One soldier died and other troops were injured, the newspaper added. Plumlee said he later helped the wounded receive medical aid.

Other troops received Silver Stars, including a posthumous award for Staff Sgt. Michael Ollis, who died in the attack.

Plumlee said some of his friends had a “bitter” reaction to hearing that the Army opted to give him the Silver Star instead of the Medal of Honor. “I think there are plenty of Medal of Honor recipients out there whose actions surpassed mine. But I think a downgrade to the Distinguished Service Cross wouldn’t have got everyone stirred up.”

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