Staff Sgt. William Thomas was chatting with his spouse, Andrea Ashworth, on Facebook when the Jan. 20 attack on Forward Operating Base Pasab, Afghanistan, began.
“I didn’t know what it was,” he said of his initial reaction to the explosion that allowed insurgents to enter the base. “After I heard gunshots ... I got up to fight.”
Ashworth didn’t hear from her husband again until after he was medevaced for being shot in the hand.
“He said, ‘I’m OK, or maybe not OK.’ I was a little bit scared,” Ashworth said.
For helping defeat the assault on Pasab, Thomas was one of nine soldiers from 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, awarded medals of valor during a presentation ceremony June 24 at Cooper Field. Thomas received an Army Commendation Medal with valor device.
Capt. James Comstock, commander of the battalion’s Headquarters and Headquarters Company, said he visited Thomas in the hospital.
“The first words he said to me were, ‘How are my guys doing?’” Comstock said. “It means a lot for us that these leaders and soldiers are recognized for what they did.”
Three of the soldiers were awarded Bronze Stars with valor device and the others received Army Commendation Medals with valor device.
“What they did was really embody the warrior ethos,” said Col. Robert Whittle, former brigade commander. “They reacted in every way that we look for.”
Staff Sgt. Justin Ellis, of the battalion’s scout platoon, also was in his bunk when the attack began.
“I ran into the fight and I was one of the first ones to get there,” said Ellis, wearing his newly pinned Bronze Star. He also received a Purple Heart Medal for being wounded during the attack.
“This has more pride,” he said. “A Purple Heart, you don’t shoot for that one. ... This is a really big honor.”
Lt. Col. David Polizzotti took the reins of the “Mustang” Battalion on June 6 and said awarding soldiers is an “awesome” way to begin command.
“These guys are all an example for the rest of the soldiers in the battalion — what they could aspire to be,” he said. “They motivate me.”