On October 3, 1993, the U.S. launched a raid to find forces of Somali warlord General Mohammed Farah Aideed, who had been ordering attacks on U.N. forces assigned there for humanitarian missions. Things went badly.
Black Hawk Down
That raid, initially the kind soldiers train for routinely, erupted into a crisis when militiamen downed two Black Hawk helicopters using rocket propelled grenades. The 15-hour battle that ensued, after raids were turned into a rescue mission, left 18 Americans dead and 73 injured.
It also left shocking images of American soldiers dragged through the streets of Mogadishu so seared into our memories.
The 15-hour rescue operation was chronicled in the book Black Hawk Down by Mark Bowden and the subsequent movie of the same name.
MSG Gary Gordon and SFC Randy Shughart
Into the melee comes Master Sergeant Gary Gordon of Lincoln, Maine, and Sergeant First Class Randy Shughart of Newville, Pennsylvania.
Dispatched via another Black Hawk to provide reconnaissance and cover fire until ground forces could extract troops, they found a downed Black Hawk and its crew in peril, with militia closing in rapidly, and no ground troops in site.
Despite this, Gordon and Shughart demanded to be inserted on the ground. Their commanders only permitted the insertion if they did so voluntarily. They did.
They were inserted a football field south of the crash equipped with only their sniper rifles and pistols. While under intense small arms fire, they fought their way through a dense maze of shanties and shacks to reach the critically injured downed aircraft crew.
They pulled the pilot and other crew members from the wreckage, and established a perimeter which placed them in a highly tenuous position. They fought until their ammunition was depleted. At that time, they surrendered one of their remaining loaded weapons to the pilot, and continued the fight.
Until they were out of ammunition. And were fatally wounded by the enemy. Their selfless actions saved the pilot's life. And earned them a posthumous Medal of Honor.
I ask that you reflect on MSG Gordon and SFC Shughart, and all of your fellow Americans that gave their last full measure so you can enjoy the freedoms our country so often takes for granted.
Happy Memorial Day!