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CEOWORLD magazine - Latest - Special Reports - Top Ten Most Decorated American War Heroes of the Century

Special Reports

Top Ten Most Decorated American War Heroes of the Century

US Navy destroyer

The following list comprises ten outstanding individuals who have demonstrated exceptional bravery and heroism in combat. Each of these men has been recognized with two or more medals of honor for their selflessness, courage, and unwavering commitment to serving their country. They represent the best of the best from the Army, Navy, and Air Force.

Two of the soldiers on this list, Army Corporal and Medic Angelo Vaccaro and Navy SEAL Michael Monsoor, lost their lives while serving their country. A few of them were injured while trying to protect other wounded soldiers. Monsoor is the one and only person here to have earned the Medal of Honor, the US’s highest military award.

  1. Michael Monsoor
     Rank: Master-at-Arms Second
    Class (SEAL)
    Military branch: Navy
    Served in: Iraq
    Medals of valor: Medal of Honor, Silver Star
    On September 29, 2006, Michael Monsoor, a member of the Navy SEALs, was awarded honors posthumously for his services in Iraq. One of the most dangerous cities in Iraq at the time, Ramadi, was where Monsoor was stationed as a member of a sniper team on a rooftop with a Navy special operations task group. Shortly after daybreak, insurgents surrounded the sniper squad and launched small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades as part of their attack. Monsoor and two other Navy SEALs were standing in front of him when a grenade landed in his chest. Monsoor leaped onto the grenade to deflect the explosion’s impact. It was not him; it was the two SEALs who he saved. Thirty minutes later, his wounds claimed his life.
  2. David Cooper
    Rank: Chief Warrant Officer
    Military branch: Army
    Served in: Iraq
    Medals of valor: Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star
    On November 27, 2006, in central Iraq, Army Chief Warrant Officer David Cooper was leading a squad of aviators in support of a ground-deployed special operations force that was making its way toward a staging area in the open desert. After a rocket-propelled grenade crippled his wingman’s chopper, Cooper remained to help the squad securing the crash site. Enemy fighters descended onto the area shortly after the chopper was brought down, attacking the ground forces that were exposed without any protection. Cooper flew into enemy fire and assaulted the fighters in an attempt to draw attention away from the ground troops. When Cooper ran out of ammo, he landed close to the crash scene, and the ground forces assisted him in reloading using the helicopter’s shots. As Cooper stepped up his attack, the opposition warriors withdrew. Cooper had served 23 deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan during the War on Terror.
  3. Mark L. Donald
     Rank: Lieutenant (SEAL)
    Military branch: Navy
    Served in: Afghanistan
    Medals of valor: Navy Cross, Silver Star
    Lt. Mark Donald acted quickly when his convoy in Afghanistan came under heavy fire on October 23, 2003, from small arms and rocket-propelled grenades. As they were evacuating a wounded Afghan soldier, the Navy SEAL opened fire again. Then, Donald, a combat medic, reached out and pulled an injured Marine who was trapped between a truck’s wheel. Donald kept tending to the Marine’s wounds despite bullets tearing his garments. Donald evacuated some of the injured before scurrying from machine-gun fire to search for other injured men.He treated the injured until they were all taken away. After serving in the armed forces, Donald turned to public speaking. Additionally, he is the writer of “Battle Ready: Memoir of a SEAL Warrior Medic.”
  4. Erich Phillips
    Rank: Sergeant
    Military branch: Army
    Served in: Afghanistan
    Medals of valor: Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star
    On the morning of August 22, 2007, Erich Phillips, a 23-year-old mortar platoon sergeant, was positioned at a hillside outpost in the Afghan province of Nuristan when militants began a rocket strike against roughly twenty dozen soldiers of his unit. They nearly overran the position, and the insurgent force was reported to be three times their strength. After the medic for the platoon sustained a chest wound, Phillips pulled him to safety. After a three-hour struggle in which half of the unit suffered injuries, the unit repulsed the attack until A-10 Warthogs arrived and strafed the area to drive the enemy back. A year later, Phillips was awarded the Silver Star for valiant acts in the same area of Afghanistan.
  5. Paul D. Fiesel
    Rank: Master Sergeant
    Military branch: Army
    Served in: Afghanistan
    Medals of valor: Two Silver Stars
    While serving in Afghanistan, Army Master Sergeant Paul D. Fiesel was awarded two Silver Stars. Having led a special operations detachment and Afghan troops that helped extract wounded soldiers and relieved another special operations team under fire from up to 400 enemy fighters, he was awarded his first one in December 2008. After fighting the enemy in September 2011, he received the second star. Fiesel’s four-man team from his battalion came under intense fire from enemy fighters using heavy machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades while they were on patrol with a spec-ops detachment. He oversaw a second four-man squad that assaulted the adversary and freed the American soldiers who were besieged.
  6. Angelo Vaccaro
     Rank: Corporal
    Military branch: Army
    Served in: Afghanistan
    Medals of valor: Two Silver Stars
    While serving as a line medic in the Kunar district of Afghanistan, Angelo Vaccaro was awarded two Silver Stars by the 10th Mountain Division of the United States Army. Under fading enemy fire, he was tending to injured comrades when he was presented with the prizes. In October 2006, Corporal Vaccaro was trying to rescue injured soldiers when a rocket-propelled grenade struck his vehicle, killing him a few weeks after his deeds won him his second Silver Star. Vaccaro received two Purple Hearts for wounds he sustained during prior military evacuation operations.
  7. Kirk Foster
    Rank: Sergeant First Class
    Military branch: Army
    Served in: Iraq
    Medals of valor: Two Silver Stars
    Kirk Foster was stationed in Iraq with the 75th Ranger Regiment of the US Army. In October 2005, Foster distinguished himself by receiving two Silver Stars in the same month. Foster “led an assault on an insurgent stronghold” while facing direct fire and grenades from the enemy, according to the citation for the second award. According to the reference, “His heroic leadership, courage under fire, and aggressive spirit saved lives by eliminating the enemy threat to his fellow Rangers.”
  8. Sean Harvell
    Rank: Staff Sergeant
    Military branch: Air Force
    Served in: Afghanistan
    Medals of valor: Two Silver Stars
    Two Silver Stars were awarded to Air Force Staff Sergeant Sean Harvell. While serving with soldiers and Marines on deployment as a combat controller, he was awarded the decorations. He assisted scores of troops in escaping an attack on May 8, 2007. Harvell coordinated air support and assisted in directing a medevac helicopter to its landing zone during the 10-hour firefight. According to his official citation, he launched strafing runs within 45 feet of his position and exposed himself to enemy fire as near as five meters, or roughly 16 feet. Tragedy in America replaced heroism in Afghanistan. Harvell drowned in 2016 not far from his Long Branch, California, home.
  9. Ismael Villegas
    Rank: Tech Sergeant
    Military branch: Air Force
    Served in: Afghanistan
    Medals of valor: Two Silver Stars
    From 1997 to 2020, Ismael Villegas was a member of the Air Force. On September 24, 2009, in Bagh Khosak, Afghanistan, he was serving as a joint terminal attack controller with a U.S. Army Special Forces squad when he distinguished himself in combat and was awarded his first Silver Star. While his three-man crew was removing bombs from the side of the road, enemy fighters ambushed them with heavy machine gun fire and remote-controlled explosive devices. Villegas ran roughly 200 meters across an unexploded minefield while his buddies were downed in order to improve his fighting position. Villegas’ companions were spared death as he dispatched the attackers by firing back while requesting air support. He was awarded his second star while serving from February 6–24, 2011. Villegas coordinated airstrikes, retrieved a wounded comrade, and obtained intelligence on hostile locations.
  10. Ted C. Westmoreland
     Rank: Master Sergeant
    Military branch: Army
    Served in: Iraq
    Medals of valor: Two Silver Stars
    Ted C. Westmoreland received his two Silver Stars in two distinct nations while serving as a medic in the U.S. Army Special Forces. The first one was won on July 25, 2003, not long after Iraq was invaded, when two of the country’s most wanted targets were housed in a structure that his team attacked. Westmoreland evaded enemy fire during the ensuing gunfight in order to preserve his friends’ lives. Westmoreland then received a second Silver Star for action in Afghanistan between December 4 and December 11, 2003, during an operation that took place behind enemy lines and was referred to in his citation as a “mass casualty incident.” Westmoreland’s citation acknowledges that in spite of wounds and hostile fire, he saved many lives—both American and Afghan.

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CEOWORLD magazine - Latest - Special Reports - Top Ten Most Decorated American War Heroes of the Century
Chetali Mishra
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