“I’ve seen a lot of grown men who didn’t have the courage and weren’t able to handle themselves under fire like she did.”
On April 25, 2007, Army Spc. Monica Lin Brown was travelling in a five-vehicle convoy through Afghanistan’s Paktia Province.
Brown did not typically go on patrols like this. “Our regular medic was on leave at the time,” a fellow soldier explained to the American Forces Press Services. “We had other medics to choose from, but Brown had shown us that she was more technically proficient than any of her peers.” At just 19 years of age, Brown filled in as the convoy’s medic.
As the convoy proceeded through a dry riverbed, a roadside bomb struck the rear Humvee. Brown grabbed her aid bag and, with platoon sergeant Jose Santos, started running toward the burning vehicle.
Insurgents immediately unleashed machine gun fire. With bullets flying through the air, Brown and Santos ran several hundred meters to the downed Humvee. “I did not really think about anything except for getting the guys to a safer location and getting them taken care of and getting them out of there,” she told an Associated Press reporter.
By the time she arrived at the Humvee, Brown told the American Forces Press Service, “Everyone was already out of the burning vehicle … But even before I got there, I could tell that two of them were injured very seriously.” All five passengers had burns and lacerations, and two had injuries that were life-threatening.
With assistance from some of the less wounded men, Brown dragged the injured soldiers several hundred feet away from the burning Humvee. The insurgents continued to take aim at them and began launching mortars. One soldier who helped provide suppressive fire noted, “Rounds were literally missing [Brown] by inches.” Brown used her body to shield the wounded soldiers from further injury.
Despite the commotion, Brown began to treat the injured soldiers. Adding to the danger, ammunition in the burning Humvee started exploding, sending shrapnel flying all around. According to her valor award citation, when the patrol leader arrived on site, he “found it incredible she was still alive and treating the casualties amidst the extremely dangerous conditions she was operating under.”
Eventually Santos brought one of the convoy’s vehicles into position to load the wounded soldiers. Brown continued to treat her patients and shield them with her body as they waited for a medical evacuation helicopter. The insurgents retreated, and two hours after the attack began, the injured soldiers finally were evacuated. Each recovered from his wounds.
“Looking back, it was just a blur of noise and movement,” Brown told the American Forces Press Service. “Everything I had done during the attack was just rote memory … With training like I was given, any medic would have done the same in my position.”
One of men she treated disagrees. “To say she handled herself well would be an understatement … It was amazing to see her keep completely calm and take care of our guys with all that going on around her. Of all the medics we’ve had with us throughout the year, she was the one I trusted the most.”
“I’ve seen a lot of grown men who didn’t have the courage and weren’t able to handle themselves under fire like she did,” another of her comrades told the Washington Post. “She never missed a beat.”
A tribute at Rangerup.com observes: “There have been times when people in the United States, men and women alike, have questioned what role, if any, women should have on today’s modern battlefield … Pundits spend hours discussing it. … While they were talking, Specialist Brown was acting… She did what she was trained to do that day, and she did it better than everyone else around her.”
For her actions on April 25, 2007, Monica Lin Brown received the Silver Star, the third-highest award given for distinctive gallantry. Brown is only the second woman since World War II to receive the award.
We salute your valor.