Twelve U.S. Special Forces soldiers entered Afghanistan’s Shok Valley on the morning of April 8th, 2008, and engaged in a six-hour firefight that would leave 150 enemy insurgents dead and, incredibly, not a single American was killed. Among the brave Green Berets there that day was Staff Sgt. Ronald Shurer II, a medic who pushed his way through the crossfire to save his fellow soldier’s life.
Then he fought his way back to save four more.
At 10,000 feet above sea level, the Shok Valley is as elevated as a mountain range, so the air was cold and the ground was dusted with snow when the Special Ops Task Force arrived. The dozen soldiers dropped into an icy stream from their helicopter and immediately found themselves surrounded.
They were in the middle of a mountainside village that was filled with insurgent activity, but the enemy was momentarily hiding and gathering weapons they had been stockpiling since the Cold War. No Soviet forces had ever entered this province during their occupation of the county, and no Coalition forces had been to the region during the seven years of Operation Enduring Freedom, either.
Then, in an instant, insurgent forces unleashed sniper fire and rocket-propelled grenades upon the Americans. The Task Force was quickly pinned against 100-foot cliffs and steep ravines. They returned fire where they could and called in air strikes for support, but immediately began to sustain casualties.
That’s when Shurer jumped into action. Only seven years earlier he had graduated from Washington State University with a business economics degree and was about to start a master’s program. After the events of September 11, 2001, Shurer decided his life should take a different path. He became the fourth generation in his family to enroll in the Armed Forces and was immediately assigned to the 601st Area Support Medical Company in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. After joining the Special Forces, he was deployed to Afghanistan in 2006, then deployed again in 2007.
Now, he was in the fight of his life.
Immediately, a nearby soldier was struck in the neck by shrapnel from a grenade attack. Shurer went to work treating the wound while the rest of the Task Force took cover. Part of the group was separated and pinned down hundreds of meters away, so Shurer spent the next four hours fighting his way through the rocky terrain to come to their aid.
One of the other soldiers had been shot in the leg by a sniper and severely wounded. Shurer rushed to his side and packed the wound to keep the soldier from bleeding out. His helmet was struck by an enemy bullet, like a baseball bat to the head, but Shurer pressed on to help his brother away from the gunfire.
When a medical helicopter was finally able to arrive, it could only land near the stream that was now a 60-foot cliffside below them. In order to evacuate three other wounded soldiers, Shurer wrapped them in nylon netting (to protect them from falling debris) and helped lower them down the steep cliff. Then he pushed through the frigid water to load them onto the helicopter and back to safety.
Last year, Shurer received the Medal of Honor for his courage during that battle and his lifetime of selflessness. After leaving the Army, Shurer went to work for the Secret Service’s Special Operation division, continuing to protect and serve his country.