A cancer-stricken former soldier who battled to the top of an Afghan mountain treating wounded troops has won the highest US military award.
Ronald Shurer, 39, was the only medic on the 6 April 2008 mission to capture a militant leader in the Shok Valley when his team was ambushed.
The former Green Beret was initially awarded the Silver Star, but comrades said he deserved the top award.
US President Donald Trump presented him with the Medal of Honor on Monday.
The former staff sergeant left the military in 2011 to join the US Secret Service.
Citing his “conspicuous gallantry”, Mr Trump said many more soldiers would have died that day if not for his heroic actions.
“I wish I was that popular,” the president added, following audience applause for the former medic.
Addressing Mr Shurer’s two sons during the ceremony at the White House, Mr Trump said: “We stand in awe of your father’s courage.”
Battle of Shok Valley
The six-hour gunfight began after a team of 12 US soldiers and about 100 Afghan troops jumped out of a helicopter near a freezing cold river in Nuristan, a border province with Pakistan.
Months after the battle, 10 soldiers on the mission were awarded the Silver Star, but several members questioned why they were receiving the same medal as the man that, they say, saved all of their lives.
“Without Ron Shurer at my side, I would have died that day. No question,” retired Sgt Dillon Behr, told Stars and Stripes last week.
“Knowing that he was awarded the Silver Star, the same award that I got, it didn’t really seem fair,” Mr Behr told the publication on Sunday.
The men were assigned to hike up a 60ft (18m) cliff face in order to detain a militant inside his compound.
But they almost immediately came under intense fire from snipers, machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades.
“Obviously, nobody ever wants a day like this,” Mr Shurer told Army Times.
“You want to go in, you want to capture everyone easily, and you go home and talk about how tough you are.”
Mr Behr, who was hit in the hip and arm, recalled being treated by Mr Shurer, who at one point “slapped me across the face and said, ‘Wake up! You’re not going to die today.'”
After treating the first wounded American, Mr Shurer scrambled up the hill under intense fire to treat wounded soldiers who had already reached the compound on the hilltop.
After treating four US soldiers and 10 Afghan commandos, he helped to lower the wounded off the side of the mountain using nylon ropes.
Originally from the north-western US state of Washington, Mr Shurer joined the military after the attacks of 11 September 2001.
At the White House, Mr Trump called him an “inspiration for everyone in this room” and “every citizen across this great land”.
Mr Shurer, who was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer last year, said he hopes the award will “remind the American public about all the service members we still have out there, still doing the missions today, just quietly going about their jobs, you know, not asking for recognition”.
“Whatever little voice I get, I hope to just be able to direct attention that way.”
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