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Dan
01-04-2006, 13:15
Soldier awarded Silver Star
By William Cole
The Honolulu Advertiser

CAMP H.M. SMITH — Even as Master Sgt. Suran Sar charged multiple enemy firing at him in the mountains of Afghanistan, he knew it wasn’t his turn to die.
But he came within a hairbreadth.

As Sar burst into a windowless wood-and-earthen mountain shelter near the Pakistan border, an enemy fighter fired a burst from his AK-47 at point-blank range.

Two of the bullets missed. A third creased Sar’s Kevlar helmet and snapped his chin strap. Sar won’t give the specifics of what happened next, but the U.S. Army Special Forces soldier collected a handful of firearms — most of which weren’t given voluntarily. And yesterday a Silver Star was pinned on Sar’s chest.

Recalling the March 5 firefight, Sar said: “At that point, I knew I’m coming home.” He added, “I already know, if I’m supposed to go, I do believe, I’m Buddhist, and if I’m supposed to go, I’ll go.”

Sar, who is Cambodian and has been a U.S. citizen since 1986, that day flanked a ridge and surprised other militants who had his team pinned down, and is credited with saving the lives of fellow service members with Operational Detachment Alpha 732.

Yesterday’s recognition was the latest remarkable turn for the humble man who is based at Camp Smith but grew up under the murderous regime of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia.

“He didn’t want this,” Army Brig. Gen. David P. Fridovich, commander of Special Operations Command-Pacific, said of the ceremony attended by more than 100 command members and local media.

The attention was not intended to embarrass Sar, 39, which it did. Rather, it was to recognize his achievements and “what he has given back to the nation,” Fridovich said.

“You’ve already given us so much more in return than we could ever repay you,” Fridovich said.

BRONZE STAR IN WORKS The Silver Star is the Defense Department’s fourth-highest award. Sar additionally received a Meritorious Service Medal, and a Bronze Star with “V” for valor also is in the works for the ‘Ewa Beach man’s involvement in another firefight in April.

The Army has awarded 37 silver Stars for Afghanistan service since the war started in 2001.

Thirteen other troops from the joint-service command also received medals for their involvement in efforts, such as Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines.

About 250 troops representing the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps are assigned to Special Operations Command-Pacific at Camp Smith. Of those, about a dozen are deployed to the Philippines for anti-terrorism and humanitarian relief efforts.

Sar has been based out of Oahu since September. He was with the 7th Special Forces Group and on his second deployment to Afghanistan over the winter and spring, and he fought in the first Gulf War.

Sar said he doesn’t see himself as a hero. A hero to him is the weapons sergeant who was part of his team and was killed in Afghanistan in June. The soldier was a fellow immigrant; his father was from Mexico.

“The hardest thing I ever have to face was facing his mom, and that’s what I wear (these medals) for,” Sar said.

What happened March 5

The March 5 mission was to check out a suspected shelter on a ridge in Paktika province, a tribal and lawless area that locals call Waziristan where official boundaries between Afghanistan and Pakistan aren’t recognized.

As two Black Hawk helicopters landed early that winter morning, they came under small-arms fire. Sar bounded toward the shelter on the wooded ridge, at an elevation of 9,000 feet. Some enemy fighters dropped their weapons. Others did not. Altogether, there were at least 15 enemy forces.

As Sar entered the shelter, with a medic behind him, his helmet was struck by the bullet.

“It feels like somebody hit me with a small hammer,” Sar said, adding that he quickly found out he was OK.

The second team of six special operations troops was pinned down, and Sar was able to flank the ridge and catch enemy fighters by surprise, providing relief for his team. One other U.S. service member received a graze to the leg.

Hard life in Cambodia

Sar grew up in Cambodia under the oppression of the Khmer Rouge, which separated his family members by age, he said. His father was prosecuted by the Khmer Rouge and Vietnamese, and his older brother was executed by the Vietnamese.

Speaking in a quiet voice, Sar said his mom and two little brothers died of starvation.

He came to the United States in 1981, became a U.S. citizen five years later and has been in the Army for 20 years — the past 15 in Special Forces.

“I tell you, I love this country more than my birthplace,” Sar said. “I came from Cambodia and I lost (a lot) of my family there, and nobody here can tell me what it’s like, the loss of freedom. ... This country gave me so much, and this is a small price to pay, the long deployments away from home.”

Dan
01-04-2006, 13:16
Holding the helmet that still bears a bullet hole, Army Master Sgt. Suran Sar points to where a bullet hit him as he was conducting military operations in Afghanistan during a news conference at Camp H.M. Smith, Hawaii, on Tuesday. — Marco Garcia / AP Photo

CPTAUSRET
01-04-2006, 13:28
That's a great story, on many levels.

Good on him!

Terry

Gypsy
01-04-2006, 19:59
OUr Country is blessed to have Men like this. Thank you MSG Sar for your service to our great Nation.

Doc
01-05-2006, 04:52
He is in my old unit. I knew him.

Wasn't anything going to penetrate that thick skull BTW. :D

Good job MSG Sar.

jbour13
01-05-2006, 12:33
Great story!!! Outstanding MSG Sar :lifter

Thanks for sharing.

Cincinnatus
01-05-2006, 19:41
What a stud!

Goggles Pizano
01-05-2006, 22:38
Oustanding MSG Sar!

BrianL
01-06-2006, 13:49
I first heard about MSG Sar's Silver Star on one of the local TV news stations. I agree, our country truly is blessed to have people like this. He left a country where liberty and freedom were nonexistant, and came here knowing just how valuable they are. He "gets it," unlike some who were actually born here and take it for granted or abuse it.

Ammodawg
01-09-2006, 04:24
Very inspirational, thank you for posting that :lifter

airborneFSO
01-09-2006, 10:36
I was in the A-camp that day, providing indirect fires with 2 105mm howitzers. When we heard Sar was hit, my men were waiting word to unleash some 105 diplomacy. Sar's actions that day and throughout the deployment were nothing less than heroic.

Congrats Brother

Bill Harsey
01-12-2006, 10:13
MSG Sar,
Thank you very much for your extraordinary service.


Good post Dan.

504PIR
01-12-2006, 13:12
MSG Sar,

You are a hero, I wish I could shake your hand.

Thank you for your service!

Trip_Wire (RIP)
01-12-2006, 13:27
I first heard about MSG Sar's Silver Star on one of the local TV news stations. I agree, our country truly is blessed to have people like this. He left a country where liberty and freedom were nonexistant, and came here knowing just how valuable they are. He "gets it," unlike some who were actually born here and take it for granted or abuse it.

I quote you because this is what I wanted to say too!

What a great soldier you are MSG Sar!

Commo Dude
02-01-2006, 11:47
"You want ride to Camo Hut? It nice and waaarm. You get hot coffee there." I said no thanks. Man, that dude has a way to motivate the miserable. His actions don't suprise me one bit.

Daver
02-06-2006, 15:56
MSG Sar,
AS a former (and hopefully soon again) 1st Grouper to another 1st Grouper, outstanding job. I heard about what you had done last year and it's great to see you get the recognition you desrve.

moobob
04-29-2006, 15:33
http://www.foxnews.com/video2/player05.html?042406/042406_ff_hero&FOX_Friends&America%27s%20Heroes&acc&World&-1&new

MSG Sar interviewed on foxnews.

7624U
08-08-2006, 20:29
MSG Sar just got picked up for SGM Congrat's.

NSDQ
08-08-2006, 20:52
“I tell you, I love this country more than my birthplace,” Sar said. “I came from Cambodia and I lost (a lot) of my family there, and nobody here can tell me what it’s like, the loss of freedom. ... This country gave me so much, and this is a small price to pay, the long deployments away from home." MSG Sar
God Bless the Warriors

Congratulations MSG Sar. Thank You for your dedication & service.

NSDQ

Bayonet14
08-18-2006, 12:23
The melting pot of America is alive and well – Thank you MSG(P) Sar – well done!

Bayonet14
09-08-2006, 08:33
Admin note...next time credit the author and link:
SARUN SAR: ALL-AMERICAN (http://www.ascfusa.org/index.php?option=com_MosForms&Itemid=58)
By Ralph Kinney Bennett

The sound of the UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters echoed off the rugged, snowy ridges, almost 9,000 feet up in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan, near the Pakistan border. In the dim first light of dawn, the men of U.S. Army Special Forces detachment Alpha 732 were scanning the fog-bound boulders and trees, searching for Taliban fighters.

They spotted a tiny village of earth and stone huts strung out along the top of a ridge. Something didn't look right about the peaceful scene that early morning, March 2, 2005. The Blackhawks touched down, one on either side of the ridge, less than 100 yards below the huts. Six men jumped out of the chopper on the north side of the ridge, and as it flew away they came under intense automatic weapons fire from the village. Returning fire, they sought cover amid rocks and trees in the knee-deep snow.

As the other copter had touched down on the south side of the ridge, Master Sgt. Sarun Sar heard the heavy fire and spotted Taliban fighters around the huts above him. The sudden arrival of the 12-man Alpha 732 team by air had surprised the enemy. But the advantage of surprise was evaporating fast in a hail of fire.

In seconds, Sgt. Sar, a veteran of many combat operations over the past 15 years, grasped that if that fire from the high ground was not quickly suppressed, the Blackhawks could be damaged or destroyed if they tried to land again and his small detachment could be pinned down in this remote area.

Sgt. Sar, Cambodian-born, with a ready smile and a gentle demeanor that belies his toughness, reacted immediately. He charged toward the huts and the scattered muzzle flashes of the Taliban weapons, lifting his knees high to negotiate the deep snow as he ran uphill. He could hear bullets whizzing past him. Sgt. Sar had his M-4 carbine set on semiautomatic, choosing his single shots carefully. He knew the area from many patrols. He didn't want to hit any of the civilians whose confidence he and his men had worked so long and so hard to win.

The 15 to 20 Taliban fighters, who had pinned down the Americans on the north side of the ridge, seemed stunned by the swift, furious charge of the short, wiry, helmeted figure rushing up the ridge from the south. Taliban began to fall, hit by Sgt. Sar's well-aimed shots.

Now he was almost to the huts. Those Taliban who had not been killed broke and ran for the nearby woods. One turned to fire at the onrushing sergeant but was killed. Another, carrying an AK-47 assault rifle, disappeared into one of the huts.

Only then did Sgt. Sar realize that he was alone. His men, who had exited the Blackhawk after him, had been temporarily pinned down. They were far behind him, still working their way up the snowy hill. Keeping his eye on the doorway of the occupied hut, he called on his radio for help. Within minutes the team's medic was beside him.

The door to the windowless hut was partly open. Sgt. Sar could see only darkness inside. He had a flashlight mounted on the barrel of his M-4. Deciding to "keep the momentum," he barreled through the small, low opening, gun to the front. But the heavy load of patrol gear he was carrying caught on the sides of the small doorway.

It was a moment that will ever be frozen in his memory. Sgt. Sar was halfway into the darkened hut, the flashlight on his M-4 illuminating the face of a Taliban fighter, and the muzzle of his AK-47 pointed directly at Sgt. Sar's head. The Taliban fired a short burst, three shots. Sgt. Sar felt the muzzle blast as it lit up the darkness.

Miraculously, two of the bullets missed him. But one struck the lower edge of his Kevlar helmet right at his forehead. It felt like a hammer blow on his skull. "I'm hit, I'm hit," he screamed, falling back out of the doorway. He quickly recovered, realizing the bullet had only grazed him. Sgt. Sar and the medic pressed the attack, tossing a grenade into the hut before he re-entered it and killed the man who had almost killed him.

Within minutes, thanks to Sgt. Sar's fearless initiative, the Taliban ambush that placed the men of Alpha 732 in mortal danger had been smashed. The Americans cleared all the huts in the village, treated two civilians who had been slightly wounded, and rounded up a huge cache of enemy weaponry--rocket-propelled grenades and grenade launchers, a radio, a mortar and shells, bomb-making materials and explosives, and a slew of AK-47 assault rifles. The wounded villagers were flown to a military hospital.

Ten months later, home from Afghanistan at Hawaii's Camp H.M. Smith, Sgt. Sar stood at attention as he received the Silver Star, the nation's fourth-highest award for valor in combat. He was a reluctant recipient. He felt that what he had done that day in Afghanistan was "just my duty as a soldier, protecting my guys like they protect me."

As to his many missions in harm's way--in the Gulf War, in Bosnia and Kosovo, and through two combat tours in Afghanistan--he says quietly that "it's a small price to pay for this country that I love more than my birthplace, this country that has given me so much."

Indeed, few at the awards ceremony could have known what a journey Sarun Sar had made to pay that "small price." Born in Cambodia in 1966, he had led an idyllic boyhood even as the clouds of war gathered over Southeast Asia. His father was a schoolteacher, and his mother looked after their home on a large rice farm with his brothers and sisters.

Then war blew his boyhood apart. The communist Khmer Rouge insurgency of the ruthless Pol Pot overthrew the Cambodian government and began the period of the "killing fields," an orgy of executions and enforced starvation that took the lives of more than a million Cambodians who refused to be "re-educated."

Sarun Sar's father was arrested and sent to a prison camp. He eventually died of ailments resulting from his imprisonment. One of Sarun's brothers was executed. His mother and two younger brothers, dispossessed of their farm and hiding in fear of the communists, eventually died a cruel death by starvation.

Sarun and his older sister ended up in a refugee camp along the Thailand-Cambodia border. Under the sponsorship of a church in Montgomery County, Md., Sarun and his sister received visas and came to the U.S. in 1981. His older sister eventually moved to California. Sarun lived with an American family in Maryland until he could finish high school (where he joined the wrestling and track teams).

He felt strongly that he should serve his adopted country. He joined the Army in 1985, one year after graduating from high school. The next year he proudly became an American citizen. While stationed as an infantryman at Fort Benning, Ga., he says, "I was mentored by a sergeant who urged me to consider joining Special Forces."

He did. He also qualified as an Army Ranger, winning honors in his class. Then, between deployments all over the world, he earned a bachelor's degree in American history at Campbell University, in North Carolina. While stationed in Germany, he met and eventually married a Polish girl, Dobromila. Now living in Hawaii, they are currently enjoying the fact that he is "home" from the latest of his many foreign assignments.

With his boyish face and quiet voice, Sgt. Sar hardly seems the combat veteran who has earned the respect of the "toughest of the tough," his Special Forces peers. He prefers not to dwell on the many days and nights of patrols and firefights in Afghanistan. He tries to steer "war stories" toward the countless acts of humanitarian work he and his team did in Afghanistan to gain the trust of the people in the countryside. "When I went there, we were engaged in as many as six or seven attacks each day. By the time we left, they were about one a month."

Sgt. Sar feels the American public has heard only about the fighting in the war against terrorism and not enough about the work to achieve piece. "They should be proud of what their soldiers have done to overcome fear and win the hearts of these people." He chuckles when he recalls that when he first arrived in Afghanistan "the people didn't talk to me. Towards the end they wanted me to marry one of their daughters so I could stay a little longer."

REX
12-02-2006, 12:13
I worked with then SFC Sar in Northern A-stan 2003, which was a pleasure. He and 2 of his Team-mates were sent down to reinforce our ODA. Professional Man with a lot of REAL experience. ALso had good sense of humor. Great guy to be around.

REX