Pope Field airman awarded Silver Star for actions in ‘harrowing’ Afghanistan fire fight

Cumberland County News

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WNCN) — A top decoration in the United States military for valor in combat was awarded at Pope Field Friday.

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. John Grimesey was awarded the Silver Star Medal for his actions during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan in 2013.

His special forces team was working with the Afghan police on a mission to clear the Taliban from the area and secure a village on May 25 of that year.

“I honestly think about it every day and even dream about it frequently,” Grimesey said.

They initially expected light resistance, but what they encountered were 80 to 100 enemy fighters.

During the fight, Grimesey led the rescue of an Afghan commander who became trapped by the Taliban.

“I attempted to break the challenge down into small pieces and prioritize what I was being faced with at the time and take each one of those step by step,” he said.

From behind a wall, Grimesey peered into the courtyard of the Taliban’s compound and saw the Afghan commander’s dead body.

“That’s when we started to exchange fire with the Taliban that were still inside.”

The Taliban were shooting at him from just 16-feet away.

As bullets landed near his head, Grimesey was able to kill the enemy.

Right after that, a rocket propelled grenade exploded near him.

It destroyed one of his radios, knocked him to the ground, and Grimesey suffered a severe concussion.

“As far as what I was hearing, the thing that I remember most from that day was the ringing in my ears from being concussed,” Grimesey said. “Also, teammates that were also facing their own dire situations and were requesting air support from me.”

Despite his injuries, Grimesey got up.

He found a wounded special forces soldier, dragged him 25 feet away from enemy fire, and continued to fight on the ground while calling in airstrikes.

“I just remember the smell of various explosives that were going off at the time, the sulfur smell that often accompanies explosives, and even the smell of iron in blood as we were dealing with a number of injuries that day,” Grimesey said. “That’s something I’ll never forget.”

Grimesey and his special forces team killed 31 enemy fighters that day, recovered the body of the Afghan commander, and saved multiple Afghan and American lives.

“While it was a harrowing experience if you will, I also look back on it with great pride,” Grimesey said. “I do have a sense of pride that I was able to make a difference not only on people’s lives, but also to help ensure the security of that particular village.”

The decorated hero also received the Bronze Star Medal today for his actions during a 2017 battle in Afghanistan.

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