Friday, April 13, 2012

Army Sgt Felipe Pereira Awarded the Distinguished Service Cross

Sergeant Felipe Pereira of the 101st Airborne Division (AA) received the Distinguished Service Cross, the US Army’s second-highest decoration for valor in combat, on Thursday, 12 April at Fort Campbell on the Kentucky/Tennessee state line, from General Ray Odierno, the Army Chief of Staff, for action in combat while in Afghanistan in November 2010.

Then-Specialist Pereira, assigned to A Company, 1-502nd Infantry, was with a squad returning from a patrol near Senjaray, Zhari district, Kandahar province, and were about to enter their compound when a motorcycle-borne suicide bomber drove into the patrol and detonated, killing two instantly (SPC Jonathan Curtis and PFC Andrew Meari) and wounding four others, including his squad leader and fellow team leader.  Pereira sustained wounds to his liver, spleen and lung.  The blast initiated a complex Taliban ambush, firing from seven different fighting positions with small arms and RPGs.

Initially disoriented from the blast, Pereira quickly recovered enough to return fire and direct the others in firing on the enemy positions.  Despite his wounds and with his lung beginning to collapse, he commandeered a small all-terrain vehicle and drove through the enemy gunfire to within 20 meters of his pinned-down comrades, but was unable to provide effective cover.  Still providing suppressive fire and directions, he enabled two of his fellow soldiers to put two of the wounded onto the vehicle, with rounds ricocheting within inches.  Pereira then drove the wounded back into the compound for the medics, but immediately returned to the fight.  He continued to return fire and assist the remaining soldiers out of the ambush and into the post.  He is credited with help in saving the lives of two of his fellow soldiers at the repeated risk of his own, and refused medical care until after the others had received theirs.

SGT Pereira is a native of Brasil who came to the US when he was 17.  After graduating from an ESL course after only one semester, he went on to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Union College in Nebraska.  He initially prepared for a Masters degree, but became a martial arts instructor in Krav Maga and worked at a small bank.  Pereira then joined the Army in early 2009 and was eventually assigned as an M-240B machine gunner with A/1-502nd.  While still a Brasilian, he also became an American citizen in February 2010.  In addition to the DSC, Pereira’s awards include two Purple Hearts, an Army Commendation Medal, and an Army Achievement Medal.  His first Purple Heart was earned shortly before the noted action, resulting from shrapnel wounds from an enemy grenade.  He was out on patrol four hours after being bandaged.

In remarks at the awards ceremony, SGT Pereira said, “The ultimate sacrifice to me is what defines a hero.  That's why I keep saying I don't think I have done anything beyond my duty.”  He instead asked that those in attendance focus on the sacrifice of SPC Curtis and PFC Meari, and that the DSC represents the actions of the entire squad.  That action resulted in 8 Purple Hearts, a Silver Star, a Bronze Star (V) and 4 Army Commendation Medals (V) for the squad actions.

GEN Odierno said in his remarks, “I am very proud of you.  I want to your parents to know they did a terrific job raising their son with such a sense of duty and ethical values.  God bless you for your esteemed honor, leadership, integrity, personal courage and selfless service.  You have made me appreciate just how fortunate we are as a country to have men and women who not only believe in the values and ideals that this country stands for, but are willing to fight for them.”

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