Valor validated


POSTED: Friday, September 11, 2009

A 2007 firefight against insurgents in Afghanistan led to the presentation of a medal for bravery to a Kaneohe Marine who was severely wounded in another battle just weeks later.

In a ceremony yesterday at Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe, Sgt. Ian Parrish, 25, received the Bronze Star with Valor from Brig. Gen. James Laster, commanding general of the 3rd Marine Division, based in Okinawa.

Maj. Bart Battista, who led Parrish's training unit embedded with Afghan forces, said the medal was “;much deserved.”;

Parrish is credited with risking his life on Sept. 26, 2007, when he single-handedly destroyed an enemy position with an anti-tank rocket.

The Pentagon uses embedded training teams of soldiers and Marines to train the Afghan army in weapons, tactics, first aid, hygiene and leadership.

Parrish's embedded team of Kaneohe Marines was stationed at Firebase Vimoto in the Korengal Valley, a base that Parrish described as only “;about 100 yards (wide) and surrounded by barbed wire.”;


Parrish's award citation says that three rocket-propelled grenades hit the sandbagged bunker where Parrish and a Navy corpsman, Petty Officer 3rd Class Mark Cannon, were spending the night.

“;The rockets knocked me and corpsman out,”; Parrish recalled.

Battista said that when Parrish recovered, he climbed out of the bunker and fired back with a machine gun and a grenade launcher at the enemy position more than a half-mile away on an opposing ridge.

When the grenade launcher failed, Parrish grabbed an AT-4 anti-tank rocket launcher, then “;crawled to a position to best launch a rocket, resulting in a direct impact on the enemy position, which destroyed and neutralized the target,”; the citation says.

Parrish said he just “;picked the largest flash”; on the ridge and fired. Reports indicated later that more than 20 insurgents were killed in that night attack.

Master Gunnery Sgt. Douglas Thurston, the highest-ranking noncommissioned officer in Parrish's 17-member team, said it took nearly two years to validate Parrish's award because the only witness was Cannon, who was killed in another attack on Oct. 2, 2007.

In that second attack, in northeastern Afghanistan near the Pakistani border, Parrish was shot three times, once in the lung. He also almost lost sight in his left eye.


Cannon, who rushed to treat Parrish's wounds, was posthumously awarded a Bronze Star with Valor for his actions.

As a result of his wounds, Parrish is choosing medical retirement from the Marine Corps later this month.

“;I couldn't do what I wanted to do in the Marine Corps,”; he said before yesterday's ceremony. “;It would have been hard to get promoted, so I decided to cut my losses.”;

Thurston said that one of his jobs was to keep a record of the firefights his team was in during its nearly nine-month Afghan deployment.

“;There were at least 150 of them,”; Thurston said, “;and he (Parrish) was involved in 75 of them.”;

The awards ceremony at the base chapel was attended by 50 Kaneohe Marines belonging to two separate embedded training teams that returned from Afghanistan last week.

Laster noted that three Marines and one Navy corpsman assigned to an embedded training team from Okinawa were killed Tuesday in Afghanistan.

He said he wants to convey to the families and Marines in Okinawa and at Kaneohe that “;we're over there for a good purpose ... to ensure it becomes stable.”;