Justin T. Gallegos
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Justin T. Gallegos

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A ceremony held in Alaska last week brought one more honor for Fort Carson troops who battled through the post’s deadliest day in Afghanistan.

The family of Staff Sgt. Justin T. Gallegos accepted the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation’s second-highest award for gallantry, for the sergeant’s heroic actions in the battle that claimed his life and killed seven other soldiers from the post’s 3rd Squadron of the 61st Cavalry Regiment. The October 2009 fight at Combat Outpost Keating saw 53 soldiers from the squadron take on more than 300 Taliban fighters in a fight that saw two soldiers earn the Medal of Honor.

In more than 12 hours of fighting, the outnumbered Fort Carson troops held off the Taliban from the tiny outpost, in a narrow river canyon in western Afghanistan.

Gallegos had earned a Silver Star Medal for his actions that day, and Pentagon leaders decided to upgrade it to the Distinguished Service Cross.

A citation shows what Gallegos did to earn the honor.

“As a team leader, Staff Sergeant Gallegos maneuvered under heavy sniper and RPG fire to reinforce a western battle position and called for fire on several enemy positions,” the Army said.

“Staff Sergeant Gallegos planned and initiated a course of action that enabled a section of Soldiers to regroup and provide security to endure the remaining hours of battle and counterattack the enemy force.”

Although Gallegos was killed in the battle, his comrades worked to preserve his legacy and fought for him to receive the Distinguished Service Cross.

At the Alaska ceremony, Medal of Honor recipients Staff Sgts. Ty Carter and Clint Romesha joined Fort Carson brass to present the medal to Gallego’s son MacAiden.

The presentation added to a legacy of the battle that’s known as a “day of heroes.”

In addition to the Medals of Honor and the Service Cross, the Army awarded eight Silver Star medals, 18 Bronze Star medals and 37 Army Commendation Medals for Valor. That’s 58 valor medals for 53 soldiers.

The Army also gave 27 Purple Heart medals to the soldiers killed and wounded in the fighting.

A THOUGHT ON MATTIS

While Defense Secretary James Mattis is seen as an insurgent whose resignation was a sharp rebuke for President Donald Trump, the move really isn’t shocking.

In town last spring for the graduation at the Air Force Academy, Mattis expressed support for Trump. But in an aside, he noted that if he and the president parted ways on policy, he would resign.

Mattis and Trump split over Syria a day after the president tweeted his decision to withdraw troops from the ongoing fight against the Islamic State.

Mattis disagreed with the call, and did what he promised in Colorado Springs several months ago.

Contact Tom Roeder: 636-0240 Twitter: @xroederx

Contact Tom Roeder: 636-0240

Twitter: @xroederx

Senior Military Editor

Tom Roeder is the Gazette's senior military editor. In Colorado Springs since 2003, Tom covers seven military installations in Colorado, including five in the Pikes Peak region. His main job, though, is being dad to two great kids.

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