Medal of Honor recipient Ryan Pitts: A responsibility to tell our story



Medal of Honor recipient Ryan Pitts was surrounded by fellow paratroopers from 2nd Platoon, Chosen Company, 173rd Airborne during a media roundtable held at the Pentagon on Tuesday. The former U.S. Army Staff Sgt. answered questions about being presented the country’s highest military award by President Obama the day before and his plans for the future, but he mostly wanted to talk about the men he fought next to in the Battle of Wanat.

Ryan Pitts walks out of the West Wing at the White House in Washington, District of Columbia.

Ryan Pitts walks out of the West Wing at the White House in Washington, District of Columbia. (REYNALDO LEAL/U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs)

The men keep in contact with each other and try to meet up a few times a year. The group even compared the White House ceremony to a family reunion and it seems that was Pitts’ intent all along.

Pitts said his biggest surprise the entire week was that he wasn’t nervous during the ceremony. “I owe it all to the guys,” he said.

While selfless service and humility is not an uncommon trait for the individuals awarded the Medal of Honor, the speed in which Ryan diverts the attention is. For the July 21 ceremony at the White House, Pitts insisted that all of the gold star families from his unit be present. He called them himself saying, “This medal isn’t mine; your loved ones brought us home.”

“I never wanted the award; the awards are just metal and cloth. To me it is much more than that,” Pitts said.

In a statement to the media immediately following the ceremony at the White House, Sergeant Pitts said that he would not be here if it had not been for the actions of nine fellow soldiers who died during the battle.

After listing each of the nine fallen Soldiers he ended with, “The chosen few.” The entire speech took less than 45 seconds. While it didn’t create a neatly packaged sound bite for the media, their story was all that mattered to him as he walked away without taking any questions.

When the group at the Pentagon was asked about the decisions made during the battle, Major Mathew Myer, who served as company commander for Chosen Company, said, “No one says in a firefight, ‘I’m going to be valorous.’ They say, ‘I’m going to do this to help my buddy.’”

1st Sgt. David Dzwik agreed. “We do this job for each other,” he said. “We will fight for each other.”

The same bond helped him when he transitioned out of the military. “[Leaving the military] feels like your family is stripped away,” he said, but he soon realized, “We’re there for each other during war and when we get back.”

pitts1

Ryan’s reaction when asked about his favorite MRE. (REYNALDO LEAL/U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs)

(REYNALDO LEAL/U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs)

(REYNALDO LEAL/U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs)

(REYNALDO LEAL/U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs)

That doesn’t mean they always have to agree with each other. When asked what their favorite “Meal Ready to Eat” is, the group had mixed responses. Pitts went with vegetable manicotti, but the rest of the group chose beef stew #8, pot roast and spaghetti.

Fellow U.S. Army Medal of Honor recipient Kyle White, who received the award May 13, reached out to Pitts before any official notice was given. Kyle was able to give Pitts a lot of insight on what was to come.  Even though he isn’t comfortable with all of the attention, Pitts said he feels a responsibility to tell the story of what happened that day, which is something White does as well.

Pitts is now a member of the Congressional Medal of Honor society which was created to protect the honor and dignity of the medal and its recipients.  He isn’t quite sure what role the medal will play in his life, but he is adamant he will use it to tell the story of his brothers who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Spc. Sergio S. Abad
Cpl. Jonathan R. Ayers
Cpl. Jason M. Bogar
1st Lt. Jonathan P. Brostrom
Sgt. Israel Garcia
Cpl. Jason D. Hovater
Cpl. Matthew B. Phillips
Cpl. Pruitt A. Rainey
Cpl. Gunnar W. Zwilling.

“For me, my family comes first, and this responsibility is very important. I want to have a professional life, but it is a mix of the two,” he said.

Ryan's wife Amy and son Lucas

Ryan’s wife Amy and son Lucas watch him walk to the stage before being presented with the Medal of Honor. (REYNALDO LEAL/U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs)

 

Author

Tim Hudak

  joined the VA in December 2013 and is on the Veterans Experience Office team. Tim, a Chicago-land native enlisted in the Marine Corps straight out of high school. As an intelligence analyst he deployed to Al Anbar province, Iraq with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 363 in 2006 and 2008. After the Marine Corps, Tim used the GI Bill to earn a degree in Intelligence Studies from Mercyhurst University in Erie, Pa., and co-founded the university’s first student Veteran organization. Tim is active in many Veteran organizations.

Comments

  1. thomas m gomez    

    what a brave decent man this is….. i see the honor in his eyes. i also see the pain ….

Comments are closed.