Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen, commander of NATO and International
Security Assistance Force troops in Afghanistan, presented the Joint
Service Commendation Medal with Valor to Air Force Capt. Darrel A.
DeLeon, during a ceremony at ISAF Headquarters in Kabul,
Afghanistan, September 25, 2011 for heroic actions at Camp Phoenix
in Kabul on April 2, 2011. U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt.
KABUL, Afghanistan (9/26/2011) – After more than eight months
without any direct insurgent activity, service members at Camp
Phoenix did not think this day would be different from any other,
however it was.
On April 2, Capt. Darrel A. DeLeon,
International Security Assistance Forces Rule of Law liaison officer
and a Billings, Mont., native, was walking into work on Camp Phoenix
when he heard exploding hand grenades and small-arms fire.
recalled moments later hearing two more large additional explosions
bringing with it clouds of black smoke and a hail of gun fire,
indicating a complex attack.
“I kicked into soldier mode,”
said DeLeon. “My first reaction was to grab my body armor, my extra
ammo and quickly get to the gate.”
Little did he know three
suicide bombers had rushed the main gate of Camp Phoenix in an
attempt to pave the way for multiple incoming offensive fighting
forces. Two of the insurgents were able to successfully denote their
borne improved explosive devices. The third suicide bomber was
fatally wounded, rendering him unsuccessful.
He ran as fast as he could for more than 600 meters in
full battle rattle to join the fight without hesitation and
regard for his own personal safety.
“All I could see
at that time was those were my soldiers fighting and I
needed to be there with my soldiers, to protect them,” said
With so much intense, fierce firing between
the Camp Phoenix soldiers and the insurgents, he was quick
to realize some soldiers needed medical attention.
was working my shift at the Camp Phoenix entry control
point,” said Spc. Stephen Leon, Headquarters and
Headquarters Company 1-181 Infantry, Camp Phoenix, Kabul and
native of Puerto Rico.
“I saw an insurgent reach for
his detonator and I yelled to take cover. The blast was so
intense I was knocked against a jersey barrier. Once I
regained consciousness Capt. DeLeon was pulling me from
harm's way. He took me behind a barrier and started to
evaluate me; telling me to breathe and calm down,” he added.
As DeLeon was assisting Leon he looked around and saw
there were wounded soldiers still fighting to protect their
base, fellow service members and civilians.
remember calming down and catching my breath,” said Leon.
“Capt. DeLeon told me that I would be okay as he proceeded
to run back into open areas providing first aid and
emergency transportation to soldiers that were severely
wounded in the ongoing fire fight to the nearby troop
DeLeon put himself in harm's way
many times that day rendering first aid to “his soldiers,”
saving the lives of three American soldiers under direct
threat of enemy fire.
“The 'Dustoff' community has
the motto So others may live,'” said DeLeon. “I still live
by this every day I breathe new breath into my lungs.
“Living up to that selfless motto is exceptionally rewarding
DeLeon goes on to say, “I believe everything
happens for a reason and that day was no exception. God
placed me in the right place at the right time to help my
brothers in need.”
Leon is truly blessed that God
placed DeLeon in the right place at the right time.
“I truly believe Capt. DeLeon is an invaluable asset to not
only his unit, but also to all service members that work in
this unpredictable and sometimes hostile environment on a
daily basis,” said Leon. “His acts reiterate the pride I
feel in this uniform and the faith I have in my battle
Not many know this about the U. S. Air
Force captain, but he is a former Army sergeant first class
who served 14 years as a combat medic. He credits his acts
of heroism to his previous career experiences.
service as an Army combat and flight medic was the most
rewarding time of my career,” said DeLeon.
said he takes his hat off to his fellow medics from all
branches of service who put their lives on the line everyday
in this chaotic conflict.
Just recently the ISAF
Commander, Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen, awarded DeLeon
the Joint Service Commendation Medal with Valor for his
courage under fire, swift actions and selfless service.
As his eyes began to fill with water he paused, took a
deep breath and said, “This medal is for Matt.”
DeLeon is referring to U.S. Army Sgt. Matthew David Hunter,
who was a dear friend, a fellow combat medic and a soldier
who worked for him in 2/3 Armored Cavalry Regiment. He was
killed by an IED blast January 23, 2006, in Baghdad, Iraq.
As he reflected on the events of that day, DeLeon
had a few words for all service members.
you do don't get complacent in this type of environment,” he
said. “Take all the training that you have learned
throughout your career seriously because you never know when
you will have to use it again.”
DeLeon ended with
these words, “I am a space and missile officer for the Air
Force now, but I will always be a combat medic and a
DeLeon is scheduled to return to 2nd Space
Operations Squadron, Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado
Springs, Colo., as a GPS mission crew commander later this
year after a yearlong deployment in support of Operation
His first stop once he touches down
in the United States is to see his son Collin, 16 and
daughter Collette, 15 who are currently with their mother in
Leon, who has already returned back to his
home unit in the United States, had one last word for DeLeon.
“There will not be a day that goes by that I do not
thank God for the life I have, and for his [Deleon's]
selfless service,” said Leon. “He is truly an embodiment of
the soldier's creed.
By Army Sgt. Tamika Dillard
United States Army Alaska
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