CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan -- As bullets whizzed past, Gunnery Sgt. Eric J. Fears knew one thing; he had to continue with the mission even though two of his Marines had just been killed by an improvised explosive device. He showed his Marines that they had to keep fighting, and they did.
On Oct. 3, Fears was presented with a Bronze Star Medal with Combat Distinguishing Device for his heroic actions on that day in Jan. 2009 as a squad leader with 3d Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
After the deadly IED attack, Fears managed to stay calm and focused despite being under heavy small arms fire and indirect fire from an entrenched enemy. The mission at hand and recovering the bodies of his two men became his focus.
"Two of my Marines were hit with an IED," said Fears, now the staff non-commissioned officer in charge of Bridge Platoon, Alpha Company, 9th Engineer Support Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward). "We were taking a lot of fire, but we made sure to get them back."
Fears encouraged his Marines to keep fighting even though they lost two of their own. Through his courage, he set the example for his Marines.
"On that day, he showed his Marines it takes good leadership and a lot of courage to continue on with the mission," said First Sgt. Lawrence D. Wei, the Alpha Co. first sergeant with 9th ESB, 1st MLG (FWD).
Fears is a strong leader who adds a great amount of skill to the Marines of 9th ESB through his vast experience and knowledge.
"He’s experienced," said Wei. "He has had seven deployments, and he has been in division and now he’s in MLG. You don’t really find all the qualifications he has in everyone."
Fears’ solid character, which makes him successful in the Marine Corps, does not go unnoticed by those he serves under.
"He’s very calm, patient and firm," said Wei. "Everything that makes him a good Marine was required of him that day."
Fears accepted the award, but passed the credit to his Marines.
"I’m honored, very honored," said Fears from Blue Ridge, Ga., "I earned this for when I was attached to 3/8, and my Marines were on the front lines and were finding a lot of IEDs. I wear this Bronze Star not just for myself, but all the engineers that were with me at the time."