SFC Kenneth Brooks of Calhoun received the Bronze Star Medal with the “V” device and Spec. Justin Evans received the Army Commendation Medal with the “V” device for valor during an awards ceremony at the 108th Cavalry’s headquarters in Calhoun.
Five Bronze Stars with the “V” device and two Army Commendation Medals with the “V” device were presented to the soldiers for actions on Aug. 7, 2009, during Operation Brest Thunder, a joint operation with French Marines and the Afghan National Army in Kapisa Province.
Brooks was cited for clearing multiple enemy positions under small-arms and machine-gun fire. When his team of U.S. and Afghan forces took casualties, Brooks maneuvered his team and provided supporting fire while the wounded were evacuated. He later oversaw the defense of Command Outpost Belda, providing cover fire for the returning French Marines.
“Sgt. 1st Class Brooks is another standout,” said Lt. Col. Randall Simmons, commander of the 1st Squadron of the 108th Cavalry. “He was the patrol leader for the lead elements and directed the battle from his forward position.
“I remember being impressed with how calm he stayed as he coordinated fire support and air support … under intense enemy fire.”
Brooks, who also served in Iraq with the 108th, said the battle in the Shpee Valley was the toughest fight he’d ever been in.
“We got started late because the French units weren’t in place, and it turned into a long and hectic day,” Brooks said.
According to the citation, Brooks “worked hard prior to the mission to do coordination with the French Marines, U.S. Forces and Afghan National Army to ensure success.”
During the operation, Brooks’ element was under intense insurgent fire for more than seven hours.
“He held the position until the Quick Reaction Force could respond to medevac the casualities and help neutralize the enemy threat,” according to his citation. “Sgt. 1st Class Brooks did an exceptional job throughout the operation.”
Brooks, a full-time Guardsman assigned to Charlie Troop in Dalton, lives in Calhoun with his wife Karin.
Evans was serving as a team medic when the 108th entered a village in the Shpee Valley. He and Spec. Christopher Lowe were on a rooftop with Marine Capt. Matthew Freeman, who was coordinating suppressing fire at a strong band of Taliban fighters.
When Freeman, who was from Richmond Hill, was mortally wounded. Lowe and Evans went to his aid and tried to pull him off the roof. During those attempts Lowe was shot in the leg, and fell from the rooftop, pulling Evans with him.
“I did what I could to treat his wounds,” Evans said. “I thought his leg was broken.” Evans was under fire the entire time.
According to the citation, “Evans efforts were instrumental in holding the overwatch position despite these casualties and intense enemy fire.”
Evans said he had been in other actions, and Operation Brest Thunder seemed no different when it began.
But when he and Capt. Freeman arrived on that village rooftop, things changed quickly.
“Matt went down right next to me. I couldn’t believe it when it happened,” Evans said. “I knew I had to get help, and Lowe came up to help.”
Simmons said Evans’ action under hostile conditions “demonstrated his skill as an experienced combat medic.”
Evans, who lives in Silver Creek with his wife Amanda, plans to remain in the military. He will start Officer Candidate School in January.
Lowe, from Savannah, received a Bronze Star with “V” device for his actions. He was unable to attend Thursday’s ceremony.
The Bronze Star Medal with “V” device is the fourth-highest combat award of the U.S. Armed Forces. The Army Commendation with the “V” device is presented for sustained acts of heroism while engaged in direct contact with an enemy force.
Other honorees were: