Army Sgt. shares story behind Medal of Honor

(CBS News) PENTAGON - President Barack Obama awarded the Medal of Honor to former Army Staff Sgt. Clinton Romesha on Monday.

In 2009, with U.S. forces in eastern Afghanistan under Taliban attack, a wounded Romesha ducked enemy fire to rescue other wounded soldiers and recover bodies of the fallen.

Army staff sergeant receives Medal of Honor for actions during Afghanistan war battle

You have to see Combat Outpost Keating to realize just how indefensible it was to an attack from Taliban fighters. Just 52 American soldiers were down there, as well as Staff Sgt. Romesha.

"We were taking everything from, you know, very precise sniper fire, automatic weapon fire from machine gun positions. We were taking mortar and indirect fire, RPG fire," Romesha said.

The soldier said fire was coming 360 degrees all around, from every high point.

"We had taken casualties from the first barrage of fire that came in and continued to take them throughout the remainder of the fire fight," he said.

A photo of Clinton Romesha
506infantry.org

A re-creation of the battle shows Romesha was everywhere that day, running across open ground to reinforce one weak point after another.

"At one point I witnessed three enemy fighters walk straight through our front gate like they owned the place," he said. "To see that, you know, it's just unreal for a second, but that's ours. We're not going to let them do that."

Although hit in the side by shrapnel from a rocket propelled grenade, Romesha was determined to do more than just survive.

"We weren't going to be beat that day and we were going to take it back," he said.

But they were up against 300 enemy fighters. Air strikes finally broke the enemy assault.

Afterwards, bullet-riddled Humvees and burned out buildings showed the kind of fire he and his men had braved.

Left: Raw video of the award ceremony

"We ended up losing eight, eight brave soldiers that day," Romesha said.

Three days later the Americans left Keating for good. Romesha said getting the medal was an emotional experience.

"It's hard to say. You win or lose, but to know, to know we had so many great soldiers there that stood proud and did their job. That's just an amazing thing to witness," he said.

What was gained that day? Nothing. What did Clint Romesha and his men achieve? Everything.

  • David Martin

    David Martin is CBS News' National Security Correspondent.

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