MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- Private First Class Enrique C. Sanchez was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star Medal with “V” combat distinguishing device during a ceremony today aboard Camp Lejeune.
Sanchez’s mother, Christie Otten, and grandmother, Pat Ayscue, accepted the award from Battalion Commander, Lt. Col. Matthew St. Clair.
Sanchez, a native of Garner, N.C., was awarded the medal for heroic achievement while serving as a turret gunner with 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 1-Brigade Combat Team, I Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward).
On June 8, 2006, Sanchez was part of a four-vehicle patrol in Ramadi, Iraq, when an insurgent-fired rocket propelled grenade skipped off the ground and exploded under Sanchez’s humvee, igniting the fuel tank.
As his vehicle began receiving small-arms fire, Sanchez immediately returned fire from his turret-mounted machinegun as flames swelled around the humvee.
“I remember the RPG hitting the back of our truck,” said Cpl. Daniel Webb, a squad leader with Combined Anti-Armor Team, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines. “I turned to the left to hand some ammunition up to Sanchez and the truck engulfed in flames.”
Sanchez continued to lay down accurate fire on the enemy positions allowing the personnel inside, including Webb, to escape the burning vehicle. Webb and the other Marines yelled for Sanchez to come with them, but he continued to fire until his machinegun was empty.
By the time Sanchez exited the vehicle, he had suffered second degree burns, but he had silenced two enemy positions. Sanchez had to crawl out from the top of the flame-ridden humvee in order to escape.
Sanchez was killed during the same deployment July 27, 2006, when the vehicle he was riding in was struck by an improvised explosive device.
“He wanted to make a difference – he wanted to save the world” said Otten of her son. “You don’t get to save the world, but he saved the ones he could.”
The Bronze Star Medal is the U.S. Marine Corps’ fifth-highest award for heroism in combat. The “V” combat distinguishing device is used to designate an award for acts or services by individuals who are exposed to personal hazards involving direct participation in combat operations. The Marine Corps has awarded the Bronze Star with “V” to 364 Marine officers and 427 enlisted Marines for actions in Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom as of Feb. 7, 2007.
“PFC Sanchez is a true friend and a true hero,” said Webb. “If it wasn’t for him, myself and many other Marines might not be here today."