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Bill Larson, Master Sgt. Pete Mayes, Laura Boyd, and Fred Holly contributed to this piece.
Fort Campbell, KY – It was June 27th 2010 and elements of the 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 101st Airborne Division were in Afghanistan participating in Operation Strong Eagle. Among these were 2nd Platoon HHC of the 2/327th Infantry Regiment.
Their mission was to clear the Ghaki Valley working in conjunction with Explosive Ordinance Disposal Teams (EOD), Route Clearance, Civil Affairs, the Afghan National Army (ANA), Afghan Border Police (ABP), and the Afghan National Police (ANP).
The sweep would begin as the forces pushed east through the villege of Sangam and continue approximately 1 mile, until they cleared the village of Daridam.
This area had long been an insurgent stronghold with Russian Spetsnaz forces taking essentially the same route during the Battle of Maravar Pass in April, 1985.
Just 20 minutes into the mission 2nd Platoon received their first enemy contact, and SSG Matthew J. Loheide swung into action.
His bravery was recognized Friday during a ceremony at the 101st Airborne Division Headquarters on Fort Campbell.
Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Loheide was awarded the Silver Star Medal for his heroic actions as a platoon leader assigned to the 2nd Platoon, Headquarters, Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) during Operation Strong Eagle in June 2010. He also showed his commitment to the Army and his fellow Soldiers by re-enlisting moments after receiving his award.
Col. Paul Cordts, the Commander of Blanchfield Army Community Hospital, and Loheide’s new commanding officer spoke about his new job as an adaptive reconditioning NCO at the Warrior Transition Battalion at Fort Campbell. “Sergeant First Class Loheide continues to carry the same leadership qualities he displayed in combat today, serving in a new role assisting Warrior Transition Battalion Soldiers throughout their healing, recovery and transition process. Sergeant First Class Loheide is actively engaged in leading other Warrior Transition Battalion Soldiers through the Adaptive Reconditioning Program. His work within the WTB helps ill, injured or wounded Soldiers overcome challenges and disabilities through sport and physical activity, ultimately facilitating better overall health and a higher quality of life.”
During his remarks Maj. Gen. Leslie Smith stressed the significance of Loheide’s actions, “The significance of the Silver Star Medal should not be taken lightly. If you take a moment and look around at the uniforms at this ceremony today, you will not see very many Silver Stars – that is true up and down the chain of command from Private to General.”
Smith continued, “Every action he took that day – from setting up security with members of his platoon inside a ditch and identifying an enemy stronghold, to relocating his team to a safer position to escape mortar fire, to directing machine gun teams to fire into enemy positions and, although suffering traumatic brain injuries himself, ensuring the safe evacuation of the platoon’s five casualties – was a result of his desire to take care of his teammates.” He continued “Although Sgt. 1st Class Loheide does not consider himself a hero, he like many Soldiers do what they do for the love of other Soldiers and their country.”
“Without the work of fine noncommissioned officers like Sergeant First Class Matthew Loheide we could not remain Army Strong,” Smith concluded before heading over to pin the distinguished award on SFC. Loheide. Smith then administered the enlistment oath.
Afterwards an interview with the media, Loheide said that he wished his men could have been up there with him receiving the award, “I’ve often looked at this as kind of a double-edged sword, and I humbly accept this award knowing not only what I did, but also what my men did out there,” he said. “I was never afraid of dying out there as much as I was afraid of failing my men. They were my responsibility and it was my job to take care of them.” Loheide was flanked by former members of his unit, who offered the highest praise for him.
“He took me in as a young junior officer and showed me what right looks like,” said Cpt. Douglas Jones, his former commander.
“I am the product of what they forged,” Loheide said.
Loheide suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury during the conflict at Kunar Valley, Afghanistan, but was still able to evacuate his other Soldiers to safety despite his own injuries.
“I couldn’t leave my men behind. It’s not in me,” he said.
He said his experiences as a combat veteran are very useful in his current position at the WTU.
“From my own experiences, I feel that I can relate to the Soldiers there more than the clinicians can,” he said.
As for re-enlisting, Loheide said that was an easy decision.
“I’ve never left the Army because it’s a part of me,” he said.
Topics101st Airborne Division, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, Adaptive Reconditioning Program, Afghan Border Police, Afghan National Army, Afghan National Police, Afghanistan, Ana, ANP, Bill Larson, Blanchfield Army Community Hospital, EOD, Fort Campbell, Ghaki Valley, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Laura Boyd, Operation Strong Eagle, Pete Mayes, Traumatic Brain Injury, U.S. Army, Warrior Transition Battalion
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