Eleven soldiers who were on Ronald Shurer's team during a battle in Afghanistan in 2008 attended the ceremony, including Staff Sgt. Dillon Behr, who said Shurer saved his life.
Ronald Shurer II, a former Army staff sergeant who grew up in Puyallup, was awarded the Medal of Honor in a ceremony held at the White House on Monday. His role in saving the lives of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan a decade ago made him just the 12th person to receive the award in that war.
President Donald Trump awarded the Green Beret the highest military honor during the ceremony. He was joined by his wife and two children, his parents and former members of his unit.
“For more than six hours, Ron bravely faced down the enemy,” Trump said. “Not a single American died in that brutal battle, thanks in great measure to Ron’s heroic actions.”
In April 2008, Shurer was serving as a medic on a Special Operations team tasked with carrying out a mission to kill Afghan fighters in Shok Valley, Afghanistan, according to a description of the fighting posted on the Army’s website. As his team traveled up a mountain, the U.S. soldiers were ambushed by more than 200 fighters with sniper fire and rocket-propelled grenades. They were forced into a defensive position, while a group that was leading the advance for them also came under fire that resulted in several casualties.
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His efforts during the April 6 ambush were detailed in “No Way Out: A Story of Valor in the Mountains of Afghanistan,” which described nonstop fire as Shurer tended to wounded soldiers at the bottom of the mountain trail. Then he heard a frantic call from the advance group that others up the mountain had been hit, and they needed him, fast. Getting to that team was incredibly risky.
“A medic is taught not to put himself in any unnecessary danger,” authors Mitch Weiss and Kevin Maurer wrote in “No Way Out.” “He has to stay alive so other soldiers can live. But it had reached a point into the battle where he had to go. So Shurer grabbed his bag and headed into the fire.”
After fighting across several hundred meters and killing several enemy fighters, Shurer reached the group of soldiers that was pinned down and started providing aid to four critically wounded soldiers, in addition to 10 injured Afghan commandos until supporting troops arrived. He then ran 15 meters “through a barrage of gunfire” to treat the team sergeant, who was seriously wounded. Shurer himself took a bullet to the helmet and another to his arm, but continued doing his job.
One soldier, Staff Sgt. Dillon Behr, was badly wounded. Shurer reassured him he would be fine, even though Shurer knew he would die if he didn’t get off the mountain. He worried he would give up if he told him the truth, according to the account in “No Way Out.” In an interview with Stars and Stripes, a military-focused news website, Behr said that he didn’t think he would still be alive if it wasn’t for Shurer. Soldiers saw Shurer throw his body over Behr to shield him from debris.
“If he would have been critically injured or killed on the battlefield, the whole mission would have been different. We all might have died out there,” Behr said.
Eventually, Shurer evacuated three critically injured soldiers down a 60-foot cliff using nylon webbing. The U.S. Army called the maneuver ingenious.
Shurer was also awarded the Silver Star, Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart and the Army Commendation Medal for his service. He didn’t speak Monday, but said in a September interview posted on the Army’s website that he doesn’t consider himself a hero.
“I just happened to be a medic there that day,” he said. “The guys trusted me to help them, and I was going to do everything I could not to let them down.”
Shurer was born in Fairbanks, Alaska, in 1978. He lived in Illinois and Idaho before moving to McChord Air Force Base, where his family was stationed. He attended Rogers High School in Puyallup, then Washington State University in Pullman, where he earned a degree in business economics. He was rejected the first time he applied for the Army, only to be accepted in 2002 following the Sept. 11 attacks.
After serving in the U.S. Army, Shurer worked for the U.S. Secret Service in Phoenix and then in Washington, D.C. He now resides in Virginia with his wife and two children.
During the ceremony, Trump said Shurer was diagnosed with cancer last year. He started chemotherapy treatments for stage IV lung cancer in March 2017. A GoFundMe page that was set up shortly after he started chemotherapy has generated $73,500; More than $3,000 was submitted by donors in the hours after the Medal of Honor ceremony.
“He’s been fighting it every single day with courage and with strength,” Trump said. “He’s a warrior. And just like he faced every single battle of his entire life, he’s facing a very tough battle right now with cancer.”
“But I will tell you, he’s the best dad and role model two boys could ever ask for,” Trump added.
News researcher Miyoko Wolf contributed to this report.