Throughout 2004, U.S. forces in Iraq battled an increasingly lethal enemy. The Marine Corps maintained a large presence and engaged itself in hotspots throughout central Iraq. Numerous acts of heroism emerged from the conflict, such as the actions of Lance Corporal Justin McLeese. During the fall of that year, McLeese distinguished himself on duty and in battle, and earned the Bronze Star for his gallantry.
On September 16, McLeese rode in a convoy traveling to an Iraqi compound, when his vehicle flipped off the road after passing over rough, gravel terrain. Thrown 20 feet from the humvee, McLeese ignored his own pain and tended to those still trapped in the vehicle. After pulling his platoon sergeant from wreckage, McLeese rescued another Marine trapped beneath a large amount of gear. McLeese, with help from his platoon, then lifted the humvee off the ground to save a third Marine stuck under the vehicle and pinned underneath a Kevlar ballistic plate.
High-intensity urban combat engulfed Fallujah in November. McLeese and his fellow Marines cleared numerous buildings in the middle of the city. On November 11, his team entered one of the compounds and killed four enemy combatants. An insurgent, after faking his death, tried to engage the Marines from a nearby room.
McLeese recognized the impending attack and eliminated the threat with a shotgun blast. Two days later, McLeese entered another building in Fallujah, where enemy fire struck him. Despite multiple gunshot wounds, McLeese fought until the end, before an IED explosion fatally wounded him.
For his dedication to his comrades and courage under fire, McLeese posthumously received the Bronze Star Medal.