MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. -- Four Marines from 1st Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company, 7th Engineer Support Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 1, 1st Marine Logistics Group, were recognized for bravery under fire in a ceremony here, July 20.
Bronze Star Medals with combat distinguishing device were awarded to Gunnery Sgt. Donavin G. Bender, Staff Sgt. Timothy Lynch and Staff Sgt. Michael R. Smith. The Purple Heart Medal was awarded to Bender, and the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with combat distinguishing device was awarded to Staff Sgt. Kevin M. Hunsinger.
Bender, a section leader with 2nd Platoon, 1st EOD Company, was awarded the Bronze Star Medal with combat distinguishing device for actions Nov. 5, 2010, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
According to his citation, then-Staff Sgt. Bender was on a dismounted patrol with 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division (Forward), when they received small-arms fire. To ensure the safety of the Marines, Bender moved forward on his hands and knees under sustained fire to manually clear a safe pathway to a covered position for the patrol to return fire. Bender continued to clear a path for the patrol so they could gain advantage on the enemy when he was wounded from an improvised explosive device. During the ceremony, Bender was awarded the Purple Heart Medal for wounds suffered from that IED blast.
Disregarding his own injuries, Bender continued to clear a safe path for the patrol, then went back while still under fire to retrieve his fallen teammate. He then took up a position to engage the enemy, according to his citation.
On that day he wasn’t going to let the enemy slow down his fellow Marines. He said he wanted to keep them going, keep them in the fight while ensuring the safety of the patrol.
“I have mixed feelings about receiving the award,” said Bender, 29, Bismarck, N.D. “Getting an award doesn’t change what happened on that day.”
From now on, the medals on his uniform will remind him of 2/6 and the tragic events they conquered that day, explained Bender.
Also awarded during the ceremony was Lynch, team leader, 3rd Platoon, 1st EOD Company, who received the Bronze Star Medal with combat distinguishing device for actions in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
According to the citation, Lynch, 28, a native of Naperville, Ill., selflessly put his life at risk on numerous occasions while leading his team on 120 combat missions and manually rendering safe 95 IEDs.
On Nov. 21, 2010, while conducting a dismounted security patrol with 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division (Forward), in central Helmand Province, Afghanistan, Lynch “demonstrated uncommon technical skills and singular presence of mind by manually rendering safe nine IEDs over a course of the day,” his citation stated.
“I was honored to receive the award,” said Lynch. “I didn’t do anything different than any team leader would [have done] at the given time.”
Smith, team leader, 3rd Platoon, 1st EOD Company, was awarded the Bronze Star Medal with combat distinguishing device for actions in support of Operation Enduring Freedom on Oct. 25, 2010.
Sacrificing his own safety after being wounded by an IED, Smith ran directly into the center of the blast site to help others who were wounded by the attack.
“Smith began to blindly search through thick dust clouds until he discovered a critically wounded Marine,” his citation stated. “Without hesitation, Smith dragged the Marine back to a collection point and returned to look for additional wounded. During his search, he discovered an unconscious Marine lying face-down in a canal, 10 meters from the blast site. As he approached the Marine, he identified the Marine bleeding from his lower extremities due to catastrophic wounds suffered from the blast. After pulling the Marine out of the canal, he quickly began to administer first response medical aid. Once the Marine was stable for mobility, Smith carried the Marine more than 50 meters to the casualty collection point for further medical treatment. Lynch secured the Marines’ safe medical evacuation by helicopter to a higher echelon medical facility, which ultimately saved the Marines’ lives.”
“I don’t feel like I deserve the award,” said Smith, 26, a native of Pine Plains, N.Y. “I was doing what anyone else would have done.”
Another Marine recognized for his actions while supporting Operation Enduring Freedom, Hunsinger, team leader, 4th Platoon, 1st EOD Company, was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with combat distinguishing device for actions on Nov. 22, 2010, while supporting Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 2, 1st Marine Division (FWD).
According to the citation, Hunsinger responded to an IED found by Marines engaged with the enemy. He exposed himself repeatedly to the enemy fire in order to render the device safe. He then used explosives to create two firing positions, which allowed the squad to effectively engage the enemy. While assisting the squad, Hunsinger continued to search the compound during the engagement, finding and rendering safe a secondary device.
During his deployment, Hunsinger neutralized 71 IEDs totaling more than 1,300 pounds of explosives. He personally discovered more than half of these devices by methodically sweeping and observing the terrain, according to the citation.
“It felt good to be recognized,” said Hunsinger, 26, a native of Saint Louis, Mo., who added that receiving the award gives him a sense of pride.
In the EOD community, Marines go above and beyond what is expected. Any EOD Marine standing in formation would have done the same thing in that situation, explained Hunsinger.
“We make sure to go down range before the grunts do to ensure their safety,” said Hunsinger. “By this, we enable their mobility to complete the mission.”