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Four Marines to receive Navy Cross and Silver Star upgrades to valor awards

Sgt Michael Mendoza’s Silver Star award is being upgraded to a Navy Cross for leading charge that killed 10 insurgents in Iraq.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus is upgrading valor awards following an almost yearlong review directed by Secretary of Defense Ash Carter.

Carter mandated the review in January 2016, ordering an in-depth analysis of combat valor awards issued since Sept. 11, 2001, expressing concern that troops may not have been appropriately recognized for their heroism in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

On Nov. 15, 2016, the Navy completed its review of more than 300 valor awards, a Navy official said. More upgraded awards for Navy personnel could be forthcoming in the next few weeks, according to officials.

Mabus will upgrade one Marine’s Silver Star to the Navy Cross. Three other Marines and the sailor will be presented with the Silver Star, raised from Bronze Stars with combat “V” devices, for acts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The ceremony is scheduled for Friday morning at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in North Carolina.

Marine Sgt. Michael Mendoza is scheduled to receive the Navy Cross Friday after initially being awarded the Silver Star for his heroism in Iraq. According to his award citation, Mendoza led five Marines in a charge across an open field and up a 10-foot berm, killing 10 insurgents. He continued the assault to protect wounded Marines, killing an insurgent who wounded his commander, and then pulled the commander to safety.

Navy Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Michael Atkinson is scheduled to receive the Silver Star for his actions April 4, 2003, in Iraq. According to his award citation, Atkinson defied enemy fire on four separate occasions to treat severely wounded Marines and carry them to safety.

Marine Lance Cpl. Edward Huth is scheduled the Silver Star for helping to save two other Marines July 27, 2010, in Marjah, Afghanistan. According to his his award citation, that despite being shot in the arm, Huth continued to fire his machine gun … suppressing the enemy.

Huth broke away from medical treatment for his arm when he saw another Marine get hit by enemy fire. Huth then moved the other Marine to safety, according to the award citation. As Huth and another Marine were loading the wounded Marine onto the rescue aircraft, the second Marine was shot. Huth was able to load both Marines onto the aircraft himself.

Marine Sgt. Nicholas Brandau is scheduled to receive the Silver Star for leading his squad through 23 powerful direct-fire engagements from June 22 to June 27, 2012, in Afghanistan. According to his award citation, when Brandau’s squad landed in an enemy stronghold, Brandau provided suppressing fire that allowed his Marines to get to cover.

Subsequently, he climbed to a roof on his patrol base to throw grenades at the enemy. When a Marine was wounded outside the base, Brandau and a litter team sprinted 200 meters through enemy fire to rescue the wounded Marine.

Marine Staff Sgt. Steven Davis is scheduled to receive the Silver Star for helping to save a wounded Marine in Fallujah on Nov. 9, 2004.

According to his award citation, Davis’ platoon was escorting ambulances carrying casualties from the heart of Fallujah when the lead vehicles came under direct fire.

One Marine got out of his vehicle and was shot. Davis ran 40 meters through a “hail of enemy fire” to help move the Marine to safety, according to his award citation.

When the other Marine was shot in the leg and collapsed, Davis dragged him to a small rock pile where Davis himself was hit. Unable to move any further, Davis used his body to shield the Marine from the intense, enemy fire.

“It is appropriate that today we recognize these individuals for their outstanding actions in the face of incredible danger,” Mabus said Wednesday in a released statement. “It is also appropriate, that by honoring these five men, we honor the rest of you who fought beside them, and those who are still in the fight. This generation of Marines and sailors, like the generations who have come before them, are an extraordinary group of men and women who have given so much to our country, so much to all of us. You are the lifeblood, the legacy, and the history that is the United States Marine Corps.”

As part of the review, Mabus has recommended two other Navy Cross recipients be upgraded to the Medal of Honor, said Mabus’ spokesman Navy Capt. Patrick McNally, who declined to identify the two recipients.

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