If asked why I choose to write about Shugart and Gordon rather than a recipient from one of my own wars, the answer is simple. These two men were the first to receive the Medal during my tenure of service. Their actions and valor greatly impacted the majority of my military career. They have my deepest gratitude in more ways than just the conventionally accepted ones.
For the uninitiated, SFC Randy Shugart and MSG Gary Gordon were members of Operation Gothic Serpent. Gothic Serpent is better know, today, by the book and subsequent film Blackhawk Down. The movie provides only a small but poignant scene depicting these two heroes. The movie shows Gordon requesting permission from Operational Command to insert inside enemy territory in order to protect fellow US Servicemembers until a larger rescue force could arrive. Gordon's request is denied twice, in the movie, before he is told "you are on your own".
If anybody doubts the valor of these two men, I will gladly direct them to say so to the face of CW4 Michael Durant. CW4 (Chief Warrant Officer) Durant is a hero himself. He was a member of SOAR 160, whose mission is to provide air support ant transport to various Special Operations Missions, to include those of 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment - Delta (SFODD AKA "Delta Force"). CW4 Durant flew a CSAR (Combat Search and Rescue) attempt to recover the crew of another downed Blackhawk helicopter. In the attempt, Durant's helicopter was shot down. Despite a broken spine and femur, CW4 Durant survived. he was later captured by Somali terrorists and paraded around in front of international journalists as a "war trophy". Durant not only survived the ordeal but has gone on to write two books about his experiences in the Special Operations community: In the Company of Heroes and Nightstalkers. CW4 Durant will tell you that "Night Stalkers Don't Quit (NSDQ)".
CW4 Durant is alive today because of the gallantry and self-sacrifice of Shugart and Gordon. I believe he would take slander or libel against Shugart and Gordon rather personally. In war, we warriors become family. They were brothers. That is more than evident in the fact that Shugart and Gordon laid down their lives for Durant.
Knowing they had slim to no chance of surviving, Shugart and Gordon also knew that for any of the crew of Durant's craft to have a chance at surviving, they had to act. Gordon knew that attempts to defend Durant and crew from the air were ineffective. So, after hounding command several times, they received permission. They weren't told to go in. They DEMANDED to go in.
In the aftermath, it was determined that these two heroes killed at least 25 enemy combatants and wounded countless others. Without their actions, the whole of Task Force Ranger may have been lost. Their fight to protect Durant drew enemy forces away from the pinned down Rangers. There is still much controversy over which fell first. It hardly matters. They fell together, doing what had to be done. Shugart fell about the same time he ran out of ammunition.
Two men protecting one wounded Soldier against an army.
That was in 1993. I was stationed in Berlin, Germany at the time. Like the events of September 11, 2001, I remember where I was and what I was doing on October 3, 1993. The events of that day and the honor and valor of Shugart and Gordon formed the foundation of the rest of my military career, serving as examples of what it meant to be a Soldier.