President Trump Awards Medal of Honor to Navy SEAL for Fight Against al-Qaeda Terrorists

U.S. President Donald Trump awards the Medal of Honor to Retired Navy Master Chief Special Warfare Operator (Sea, Air, and Land) Britt Slabinski for “conspicuous gallantry” in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., May 24, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

President Trump on Thursday awarded the Medal of Honor to Britt Slabinski, the retired Navy SEAL who rallied his outnumbered troops during a chaotic rescue mission on a snow-covered mountain top in Afghanistan in 2002.

Slabinski was initially awarded the Navy Cross for his heroics in the fight against al-Qaeda terrorists to rescue a colleague, but a review of citations for valor since the Sept. 11 terror attacks ordered in 2014 by then-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel resulted in the upgrade to the Medal of Honor.

“Special man,” Trump said. “A truly brave person.”

Another member of Slabinski’s team, Air Force Tech. Sgt. John Chapman, is also being considered for the Medal of Honor posthumously — closely held discussions at the Pentagon that cast a shadow on the actions that occurred on March 4, 2002. In addition, several other troops, including at least three sailors, received Silver Stars in secret ceremonies for their heroism in combat that day, according to documents obtained by USA TODAY.

About 1 a.m. on March 4, Master Chief Slabinski’s team, aboard an Army Chinook helicopter, was attacked by unseen militants as it attempted to land on mountaintop of Takur Ghar in eastern Afghanistan. Navy SEAL Neil Roberts fell from the aircraft as it pulled back from the gunfire and rocket-propelled grenades. It crash landed about three miles away.

In another helicopter, Slabinski returned to lead a rescue operation for Roberts and was attacked by a more heavily armed force of al-Qaeda militants. Slabinski “repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire as he engaged in a pitched, close-quarters firefight against the tenacious and more heavily armed enemy forces,” according to a statement from the White House.

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SOURCE: USA Today, Tom Vanden Brook