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'Ordinary' Army Reserve Soldier receives Silver Star for 'extraordinary' heroism

J.D. Leipold

Army Reserve Spec. Gregory S. Ruske attends to an injured Afghan National Police officer who was wounded in combat in the Afghanya Valley, Kapisa Province, Afghanistan on April 21, 2008. Ruske was awarded the Silver Star, the third-highest medal for valor for his actions during the battle.

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Oct. 24, 2008) -

"I don't consider myself a hero," said Army Resere Sgt. Gregory S. Ruske. "I was just an ordinary guy put in an extraordinary situation. I reacted based on my upbringing, training and compassion, and thankfully, it worked out in the end."

That extraordinary situation and Ruske's quick and decisive action would bring him the Silver Star, the nation's third-highest award for valor and gallantry in the face of the enemy. It was presented to him at a ceremony Thursday in Orlando, Fla., by Chief of the Army Reserve Lt. Gen. Jack C. Stultz.

Recalling April 12, 28-year-old Ruske from Colorado Springs, Colo., was on patrol with six Soldiers and two Afghan National Police officers in the Afghanya Valley, Kapisa Province, Afghanistan, when "all hades broke loose," sending his fellow Soldiers to the ground in a shallow ditch. Ruske was serving with 3rd platoon, A company, Task Force Gladiator, Combined Task Force 101.

"I was pulling rear security when the opening barrage happened and that's when the two ANP officers got hit because they were in the lead as our guides," Ruske said. "I managed to get over to the corner of this little house and started lobbing M-203 grenades and returning fire with my rifle as well."

Ruske's fellow Soldiers were able to peel back and take cover behind the building. He thought if he could get access to the roof or a window he would have a better angle to see the enemy. After negotiating with the house's owner, he made it to the roof when everything started exploding around him.

"Then I felt something, like a rubber band, hit me in the hip, so I fell to the roof, looked at my glove, which was covered in blood... at that point I decided the roof was not a good place to be, so I got myself off the roof," he said.

After being treated with a field dressing, Ruske found one of the ANP officers who had been ambushed was still in the field about 50 meters from where he'd been ambushed. He had managed to crawl into a small ditch for cover, but the enemy was still laying down rounds.

"I grabbed my SAW (squad automatic weapon, an M-249 light machine gun) gunner and told him to give me a nice "z" pattern on the count of three and then just empty the entire drum, to suppress the enemy's fire," Ruske said.

He and another Solder then ran out, one grabbing the policeman's arms, Ruske lifting his legs.

"I lifted his legs, not knowing that the round had hit him shattering his femur," he said. "At this point he was screaming, but we managed to carry him into the compound and get a tourniquet on his leg, then we went back to fighting."

After Ruske was medically evacuated and treated, he visited the police officer. His leg had been put back together, his other wounds treated and he was "good to go."

Looking back on everything that occurred that day, Ruske remembered how his father had been in the Army during World War II, his stepdad in the Army in the chemical corps.

"I remember hearing my grandfather's stories, the sense of pride and patriotism he had," Ruske said. "You know, what's a couple of years of my life for a country that has given me 28 years of pretty good living compared with what I've seen overseas."

"The people there are a lot like us. They want to make some money, raise their families, live their lives and be happy," he said.

As for the Silver Star he now wears for his heroic actions, Ruske remains humble.

"People in a much higher position than I made that decision, but it seems to me that I was smart enough to come up with a plan, stupid enough to try it and lucky enough to survive it," he said. "It means I was doing my job."

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