In more than 10 years of war, the Navy Cross has been awarded to 31 Marines and seven sailors. Ten Navy Crosses were awarded posthumously.
On Friday, two California-based Marines — Cpl. Christopher Farias and Sgt. Cliff Wooldridge — were present and accounted for as they received the Navy Cross, the nation’s second highest award for valor. Their stories will live on and join those of scores of legendary Marines.
At Camp Pendleton, Farias received his award at a morning ceremony for his ferocious will to fight and direct the counterattack of an ambush in Kajaki, Afghanistan, on Oct. 5, 2010, even though he was wounded.
As assistant squad leader for 1st Battalion, 11th Marines, Farias organized triage for several wounded Marines, including his squad leader, after an explosion from a recoilless rocket inside their small patrol base, which wounded him as well. He then took control of directing suppressive fires from a rooftop at the base on the edge of enemy territory in northern Helmand province, and killed several enemy attempting to flank and overrun the base.
At Twentynine Palms on Friday afternoon, the story of Wooldridge’s hand-to-hand battle with an enemy fighter on June 18, 2010 left no doubt that the enemy never had a chance.
Wooldridge, then a vehicle commander with Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines, dismounted with his Marines when they came under fire on a patrol in the village of Musa Qaleh. They quickly spotted and killed several Taliban who were preparing to ambush their patrol and while his fire team made its withdrawal, Wooldridge pulled security.
Behind a nearby wall he heard voices, moved toward them and killed two fighters. As he crouched to reload his M249 squad automatic weapon, he saw the barrel of a rifle coming around the wall, dropped his SAW, grabbed the enemy’s rifle muzzle and gained control of it. Using the butt stock of the Taliban’s rifle, Wooldridge killed his enemy with several blows to the head.
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