This is only one of many stories that are being written but never told in the news.
“I honestly don’t believe I did anything all that heroic,” Sgt. Jeff Hunter told Military.com when asked about his Silver Star. That’s a common refrain among American warriors serving in combat zones, but for those who served with Hunter during two intense fights, it’s a dramatic understatement.
For years, the Marine Corps has faced some of the most challenging battlefield conditions in Iraq’s volatile Anbar province. It is a place where, as Hunter told the Albuquerque Tribune, “There were a lot of scumbags . . . a lot of people who had no problem hurting people, beheading people, torturing people.” To fight this kind of enemy, entrenched in the local population, coalition forces have to run foot patrols in narrow streets and close quarters – which often results in intense urban combat.
In May of 2005, then-Cpl. Hunter’s platoon planned to surprise insurgents with a dawn assault in Haditha’s market district. Instead, it was the enemy who first engaged the platoon in a brazen ambush. As gunfire erupted, Hunter’s squad moved to take out insurgents firing from a nearby house. As the squad leader entered the home, an insurgent shot him in the chest. Hunter saw the man down, sprinted inside while spraying the area with his M16, grabbed his comrade, and moved him out of the house – at which point he used his own body to shield the injured man. Hunter, now in charge of the squad, rallied his men and led them back into the house – clearing it with bullets and grenades, killing one insurgent while capturing three more.
Two months later, Hunter found himself in another fierce gunfight, a battle that lasted for four hours and meandered through the streets of Cykla, a village near Haditha. After enemy fire from a hostile house hit a Marine, Hunter’s platoon engaged the enemies, forcing them to flee to a second home. By the time his squad cleared the second house, the insurgents had already left. Two of the Marines approached a couple of nearby cinder block buildings, and one of them was suddenly hit by insurgents firing from a fortified position. Hiding behind a three-foot-high wall, Hunter returned fire and shot two insurgents. He also made two attempts to extract the wounded Marine. The shooting was too intense, so Hunter ran through the line of fire and across the street to an M1A1 tank – which he guided to strike the enemies’ position. The tank eliminated the threat and allowed the platoon to retrieve its mortally wounded comrade.
For his actions, Sgt. Hunter received the Silver Star in June, in his hometown of Albuquerque. Having finished his reservist obligation, Hunter is currently completing his education at the University of New Mexico.