Friday, October 13, 2006

Valor: Specialist Richard Ghent

Valor – n from the Latin valere to be strong; strength of mind or spirit that enables a person to encounter danger with firmness; personal bravery

Valor as a virtue is surely not shown on the nightly news or discussed on talk shows with any frequency. It is safe to say that for that it is not cultivated in most government, Catholic or other schools and universities. Valor nowadays is perhaps only cultivated in military schools and some “rare” homes and other “rare” schools. It may be a forgotten virtue that some think perhaps only applies to the battlefield. It surely does apply to the battlefield and it’s edifying to read about the valor of New Hampshire’s own Richard Ghent ("NH Guardsman to receive Silver Star for valor while under fire" by Mark Hayward (October 13, 2006)) in Manchester’s Union Leader.

A New Hampshire Army National Guard soldier who charged enemy insurgents in Iraq with a 9mm handgun after being blown out of his Humvee will be awarded the Silver Star tomorrow.

Richard Ghent of Rochester, who was 20 at the time of the attack, will receive the third highest citation the United States military awards for valor. He is the only New Hampshire guardsman to earn such an award, according to the New Hampshire Army National Guard.

"I'm happy I'm getting it. I obviously feel I deserve it, but it's just doing what I was taught to do," Ghent said in a telephone interview yesterday.

Ghent's action took place on March 1 during a grenade attack that severely wounded fellow guardsman Jose Pequeno, the Sugar Hill police chief, and killed Vermont guardsman Christopher Merchant.

According to the narrative to Ghent's award, he was the first to notice the attack on the Humvee, which was patrolling a highway near Ramadi. A grenade hit him in the face, he yelled "grenade" and was ejected from the turret as he scrambled out of it.

Dazed and wounded in the face, Ghent quickly focused and demonstrated "great courage and intrepidity of action" by drawing his pistol and engaging the insurgents, according to the narrative for the Silver Star.

"(Specialist) Ghent charged the insurgents and drove them away from the Observation Post without any benefit of cover and concealment," the narrative reads. "(Specialist) Ghent held his ground, expending nearly all his ammunition, until relieved by elements of his platoon ..."

Ghent said the attack started a firefight that lasted about 45 minutes.

"Honestly, I don't think I was thinking anything at all," Ghent said. "I just knew what I had to do and did it."

Ghent received a bullet wound to his back, a laceration to his face and shrapnel wounds. He returned to the United States in late March. He is taking classes to become an emergency medical technician and is scheduled to enroll in the New Hampshire Fire Academy in March.

Ghent and Pequeno were serving with the 3,500-person 2/28 Brigade Combat Team of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard, which was made up of volunteer guardsmen and women from 22 states. The 28-member New Hampshire contingent had nicknamed themselves the Snowstormers.

He said he would like to see the United States set a timetable for a partial withdrawal from Iraq; major bases should remain in the country, however.

"It's almost like a safety spot for the civilians to go to," he said.

The award ceremony is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. at the National Guard armory in Manchester. Senior leadership from the New Hampshire National Guard, representatives of the state's congressional delegation and members of Ghent's unit, the 1st Battalion 172nd Field Artillery are expected to be on hand.

Pequeno suffered serious head injuries in the attack and is at a rehabilitation center in Florida, said Maj. Greg Heilshorn, a spokesman for the New Hampshire Guard.

Now that we have read about the valor of Specialist Ghent let’s apply valor to our ordinary lives.

Update Sunday October 15,2006:
Richard "Buddy" Ghent was awarded his Silver Star on Saturday. Read about it here.
"Buddy was never great in sports, but he tried them all, and he always gave it everything. That's something that comes from here," he (Pete Lambert, Ghent's grandfather) said, holding his fist to his chest.

Image: Union Leader October 13, 2006
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