Sharpsburg salutes Marine who earned Silver Star
Marine Sgt. David Gerardi has always felt a special connection to Sharpsburg and last week the borough made him feel like one of its own.
Gerardi, a 2008 graduate of Fox Chapel Area High School, was presented a proclamation from the borough and from Allegheny County for earning the Silver Star for his actions in saving his fellow Marines while serving in Afghanistan in June 2011.
Gerardi's grandfather, Marion Gerardi, served as mayor of the borough from 1975 to 1998.
Mayor Richard Panza said residents and officials of the borough are proud of Gerardi's accomplishments.
“I know how proud we are here in Sharpsburg of the sergeant for all he accomplished,” Panza said. “But I know his grandpap, the former mayor Marion Gerardi, would be especially proud.”
The honor of receiving the military's third-highest decoration for valor stems from Gerardi's actions during a June 6, 2011, ambush in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, in which enemy fire pinned down his platoon.
Gerardi, then a corporal, was a sniper with the 1st Platoon, Bravo Company, 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion. He risked his life to get into a position to suppress the attack.
Gerardi crossed open fire to a position behind a 2 1⁄2-foot-tall stone wall, which offered him a clear line of sight to the enemy positions. He suppressed an enemy machine gun long enough for an adjacent team to extract an Afghan National Army casualty from open terrain.
With enemy fire hitting around him, Gerardi coordinated with another team and fired a light antitank assault rocket to reduce a second enemy position, allowing his unit to move to safety.
During last week's presentation, Gerardi said Sharpsburg holds a special place for him.
He remembers watching retired and active members of the military march in the annual Memorial Day parade that goes through the borough each year.
“That's one of the greatest traditions,” Gerardi said.
Organizers of that parade wasted no time making sure Gerardi will be included in this year's event. Howard Strain, commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 709 in Sharpsburg and chairman of the Memorial Day committee, invited Gerardi to serve as the grand marshal of this year's parade.
Gerardi also was offered memberships in the local VFW, American Legion and Sons of the American Legion posts.
Michael Haas, commander of American Legion Post 106, said Gerardi's actions meant that a group of soldiers and their families were able to reunite.
“Because of your actions, not only were you able to come home and have a warm family reunion and a happy homecoming but so were several other soldiers,” Haas said.
Gerardi said he was humbled by the honors he has received. He said the men he saved have done the same for him physically and emotionally while serving together.
“What this award does not cover is all the times those guys have brought me home,” Gerardi said.
Tom McGee is an associate editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 1513 or email@example.com.