On Thursday of this week, two US Air Force special operators, Chris Baradat and Keary Miller were awarded the Air Force Cross for valor at Hurlbert Field, FL home of the 24th Special Operations Wing.
Both men had earlier received Silver Stars for valor a few years ago, but as the Air Force and the DOD reviewed their actions, the awards were upgraded. It was the first time in history that the Air Force has awarded two Air Force Crosses on the same day.
Baradat received his award for actions in 2013 while serving with an Army Special Forces unit, while part of the 21st Special Tactics squadron and directing air support during operations in the Sono Valley part of the Kunar Province of Afghanistan. He was credited with saving 100-150 lives both American and Afghan allies in the battle.
“I don’t feel that I was doing anything above and beyond and heroic,” Baradat said shortly before being honored yet again in a historic ceremony in Florida. “I was doing the job that I was supposed to do.”
Baradat’s heroics are related to a battle in which he directed 13 500-pound bombs and more than 1,100 rounds of ammunition during three hours of intense fighting amid a mission to rescue allies trapped in a valley under Taliban control.
Miller, who served with the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, is credited with dashing through deep snow and heavy fire multiple times to care for critically wounded U.S. troops during a 17-hour battle against al-Qaida fighters in Afghanistan on March 4, 2002.
Baradat, who left the Air Force last year and now lives in California, said he was not seeking medals during the fight on April 6, 2013.
“I was just concentrating on doing my job,” he said. “It was a very busy, hectic situation.”
According to accounts of the battle, Baradat put his life on the line even as members of the Special Forces team and Afghan commandos he was attached to shouted for him to take cover.
Miller, a pararescueman assigned to the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, was decorated for constantly running thru deep snow and heavy fire multiple times to care for critically wounded U.S. troops during a 17-hour battle against al-Qaida fighters in Afghanistan on March 4, 2002.
Miller has since retired from the Air Force.
To read the entire archived article from the Fayetteville Observer click here:
Photos courtesy US Air Force