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Marines decorated for heroic actions in Afghanistan

By Lance Cpl. Christopher J. Moore | | June 13, 2013

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Four Marines with 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, were awarded medals for their actions during the unit's deployment to Afghanistan here, June 11.

First Lt. Stephen C. Huff, the 81 mm mortar platoon commander serving with the battalion and Cpl. Jorge Salazar, a fire team leader serving with the battalion, were presented the Bronze Star Medal with Combat V for valor. Sergeant Trey T. Cholewa, a section leader serving with the battalion, and Gunnery Sgt. Benjamin C. Stryffeler, a platoon sergeant with the battalion, were presented the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with combat V for valor.

Huff, led more than 50 Marines and Afghan soldiers in an assault on an insurgent stronghold of more than 25 highly trained fighters. During the 60 hour fight, he exposed himself to enemy fire while maneuvering his Marines, directing their fire and evacuating the casualties from the battlefield.

"To me the award stands as a representation, a small token of remembrance of my men, my platoon and what we accomplished together in pursuing the enemy," said Huff, a native of Franklin County, Va.

Salazar took charge of his squad after his squad leader was wounded by an improvised explosive device. He directed the fire of his squad even after his legs were severed below the knee by a subsequent IED blast.

"My squad leader was injured and I immediately took over the squad and directed them to fire," said Salazar, a native of Delano Calif. "On the way out, I stepped on an IED and it took out my legs immediately, but I continued to lead my Marines."

Cholewa, led 47 operations in the volatile Trek Nawa area of southern Helmand provence. He fought the enemy during 72 hours of sustained combat after inserting by helicopter into an insurgent stronghold where he exposed himself to enemy fire to maneuver his Marines and destroy key enemy positions. 

Stryffeler led his Marines on 74 mounted and dismounted combat patrols in the battalions's area of operations, neutralizing a determined enemy in several fierce small arms engagements and conducting four casualty evacuations for wounded Marines and their Afghan National Army counterparts.

His superiors cite Stryffeler's professionalism off the battlefield as the foundation for his platoon's success in 19 engagements with the enemy.

After the awards were given, Huff said it was an honor serving with the Marines who were recognized.

"Today was a humbling experience," said Huff. "We were able to come out here and remember what we accomplished out there and what we were able to accomplish together. We relived as a unit, as a family, some of the actions that took place during our deployment to Afghanistan."


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