Connellsville soldier awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for heroism
By Karl Polacek
Published: Sunday, May 26, 2013, 12:45 p.m.
Jeremy R. Sherwood, 25, of Connellsville was a Marine at a forward base in Southern Afghanistan, near the Pakistani border.
“It was Sept. 28, 2011,” said Sherwood. “I'll never forget the date.”
An AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter gunship was doing an aggressive takeoff, fully armed, to keep the dust and sand at a minimum, when it ran into trouble.
“There were bamboo mats laid down to reduce the dust and sand,” said Sherwood. “They were taking off and landing (on the mats) all day.”
Something happened and one of the mats came loose as the helicopter lifted off.
“One skid (of the helicopter taking off) caught in the bamboo mat,” he said. “What is called the H2 (right) skid caught in the mat (when it came loose.) The helicopter tilted to the right, then left, right, left, right. Then it fell on its side.”
The impact of the rotor on the ground was so violent, it tore the transmission out of the helicopter. Debris smashed into the gunner's position (the forward position in the helicopter cockpit.)
“There was still debris flying around when we got to the helicopter,” Sherwood said. When they got to the gunner, he was already pale. “He was KIA (killed in action).”
There were bigger potential problems.
“The engines were still running at full-throttle,” he said.
He yelled to another Marine to pull the circuit breakers to shut the engines down. But a fire developed in one of the engines. And the gunship was carrying a full load of two Hellfire missiles, 10 Zuni rockets, 10 fleshette rockets and 500 rounds of 20 mm cannon ammunition, all armed.
Sherwood grabbed a fire bottle but it did not function. He started grabbing 16-ounce water bottles, dumping them onto the fire.
“It took about a case and a half,” he said.
Sherwood was wearing fireproof clothing, which did protect him, but he received second-degree burns on his arms and he inhaled carbon-fiber particles while working to extinguish the fire.
A Black Hawk “dustoff” medical helicopter was called to provide aid to the pilot and gunner.
“But there were 15 people still around the wreckage,” he said.
The ammunition could still explode so he used strong Marine Corps language to get them away from the site, then set up a perimeter to keep everyone out of danger.
A salvage team was sent to remove the potentially dangerous ammunition. He said it was taken out into the desert and exploded.
For his efforts, Sherwood was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for his heroism.
“For his courageous and prompt actions in the face of great personal risk Cpl. Sherwood reflected great credit upon him and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service,” the last sentence of the citation reads.
It was authorized by the President of the United States and signed by the Commandant of the Marine Corps.
The Navy web site says the following about the medal:
“The Navy and Marine Corps Medal is the second highest non-combatant medal awarded by the United States Department of the Navy to members of the United States Navy and the United States Marine Corps. The decoration was established by an act of Congress on Aug. 7, 1942. The Navy and Marine Corps Medal may be awarded to service members who, while serving in any capacity with the Navy or Marine Corps, distinguish themselves by heroism not involving actual conflict with an enemy. Typically, it is awarded for actions involving the risk of one's own life.”
One famous recipient of the medal was President John F. Kennedy for his heroism during World War II while commanding PT109.
Sherwood has since been discharged.
Sherwood said his burns have healed nicely, but he suffered damage to his lungs. He sometimes finds himself winded when he climbs stairs.
He is back in Connellsville and is working for Integrated Production Services.
He said the military and the VA have treated him well, which he credits to the work of the veterans of previous wars.
Karl Polacek is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 724-626-3538.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Connellsville junior ROTC program a training ground
- WVU students aim for billiards record to help Make-A-Wish
- FAA pushes for upgrades to Fayette airport
- Troop cuts worry vets in Fayette
- Dawson council to meet tonight
- Fayette County residents sue over landfill fumes
- Geibel 3-sport star enjoys tapping onstage
- Addison gemologist has keen eye for ‘wearable art’
- Brutal attack gets Fayette County man up to 11 years in prison
- Jury selection ends in trial for Fayette County boy’s beating death
- Geibel musical director enjoys ‘group of very talented dancers’