U.S. Air Force pararescueman Staff Sgt. Aaron Metzger was awarded the Bronze Star with valor last week for his actions during combat operations in Afghanistan last year. The special operations Airman assigned to the 38th Rescue Squadron (RQS) withstood significant injuries from both small arms fire and grenade shrapnel during an hours-long firefight that Metzger refused to be evacuated from as enemy fighters closed to within just five meters of his unit’s location.

“Despite being exposed to continuous enemy fire, Metzger ran to aid two Afghan partners who were severely injured by a grenade. Disregarding the risk to himself, he carried the two partners away from enemy fire,” the Air Force said in a press release about the award.

Metzger received shrapnel injuries in his right arm and chest when the grenade detonated but chose to treat the wounded around him and continue to fight, rather than evacuate. Metzger applied a tourniquet to his own arm to slow his bleeding before helping an Afghan partner find cover in a nearby structure. Then, when a U.S. Army Green Beret arrived on the scene, Metzger calmly talked the soldier through providing him the life-saving medical care he needed to stem the bleeding. From there, Metzger returned to the fight, ultimately receiving another injury from gunfire.

“When he found me, I felt a sense of relief,” Metzger said last year. “I had my guard up this whole time because I was prepared to fight until the end.” Even after being wounded a second time, Metzger remained in the fight. Metzger even “refused to be carried to the medical evacuation helicopter so personnel could focus on security,” the Air Force wrote.

“The heroic action and unselfish dedication to duty displayed by Sgt. Metzger reflect great credit upon himself and the Air Force,” the award citation reads.

The award was presented to Metzger by U.S. Air Force General Mike Holmes, commander of the Air Combat Command. General Holmes pointed out that Metzger’s team was in attendance during the award ceremony and extended his gratitude to them as well, for helping to ensure Metzger’s story had a happy ending.

“I know this room understands what you did better than most do and I’m sure it’s an honor to be able to do this in front of people who understand,” Holmes said. “I’m proud of the team that took part in helping Sgt. Metzger return to status because that’s a tough voyage. I’m proud of the people [who] accomplished this mission [and] all the aspects that go into it that make it happen.”