May 23, 2010

Mainer joins elite crew of Medal for Valor recipient

WINDSOR — Retired Marine Gunnery Sgt. Bill Rosborough is eternally grateful to Alan Johnston.

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The Department of Defense recently honored Alan Johnston with a Medal for Valor �for performing an act of heroism with voluntary risk of personal safety in the face of danger.� He is just the third American civilian to receive this high honor since 2001.

Staff photo by Joe Phelan

Johnston, of Windsor, saved his life when two truck bombs exploded near a command post in the Iraqi city of al-Kasik on Aug. 7, 2004.

A project manager overseeing construction of two medical clinics at the Iraqi army base, Johnston pushed everyone to the floor when the first bomb went off. After the second bomb exploded, he quickly began treating people for their injuries, despite suffering head injuries in the first blast.

Four years ago, Johnston was awarded the Defense of Freedom Medal by the U.S. Department of Defense for saving the lives of U.S. servicemen around him that day. Three soldiers Johnston saved —  Rosborough, Army Maj. Thomas Case and Marine Capt. Aaron Hill —  made the case for the award.

Now, at the insistence of those same soldiers, Johnston has another prestigious award to add to his collection.

May 7, the Department of Defense honored Johnston with a Medal for Valor “for performing an act of heroism with voluntary risk of personal safety in the face of danger.” He is just the third American civilian to receive this high honor since 2001.

The ceremony took place at MacDill Airforce Base in Tampa, Fla.; the award was presented by Gen. David Petraeus, commander of U.S. Central Command.

“Alan Johnston is a true American patriot and hero,” Rosborough said Thursday. “He would give the shirt of his back for anyone. He is definitely my hero. To render first aid to help us with a severe life-threatening injury, if it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be here now. I’m so glad he gets some recognition.”

Rosborough, 39, lives in Hubert, N.C., and received a medical retirement from the military last year because of the injuries he sustained during that attack. He is a now recovery care coordinator for the Department of Defense, assisting wounded Marines and their families.

Johnston, 50, who served in the Army 10 years before leaving the service in 1988, said he is honored to receive this latest medal.

The Defense Medal for Valor is equal to the army’s Distinguished Service Cross, which he said is the second-highest medal a soldier can receive.

“I was honored to receive it knowing that the military soldiers that I saved were grateful for what I did,” Johnston said. “They were the ones who really pushed this, and it took them six years to finally get it approved.”

Johnston lives in Windsor with his wife, Cheryl. The couple has two children.

He is disabled from the wounds and traumatic brain injury he sustained from the blast and the subsequent mortar and rocket attack, and he’s receiving treatment for his injuries and counseling for post-traumatic stress at Togus.

While performed triage and administered IVs to half a dozen soldiers injured in the 2004 blasts, Johnston said insurgents would fire rockets at the command post for an hour-and-a-half.

Johnston said he thought he would lose Rosborough.

“He had major injuries. Shrapnel went through the top part of his head and opened his face, skull and neck,” Johnston said. “He had severed wounds to his neck and almost lost his arm.

I used to work for Delta Ambulance, so I’m an advance level EMT. I started two IVs on him. I must have put six or eight liters of saline solution in him before we got to the hospital. I actually flew the Black Hawk with the wounded and made eight trips.”

For their own actions during the attack, Rosborough, Case and Hill were each awarded Bronze Stars and Purple Hearts. As with Johnston, all three men continue to receive treatment for their injuries.

(Continued on page 2)

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