WASHINGTON — A veteran who helped ‘‘defend the indefensible’’ at a vulnerable Army outpost in Afghanistan received the nation’s highest award for military valor Monday at a tearful White House ceremony that also honored the eight men who did not survive a Taliban attack.
President Obama lauded former Staff Sergeant Clinton Romesha’s bravery in fighting back an intense daylong barrage by enemy fighters.
The Taliban descended on Combat Outpost Keating in the mountains near Pakistan at 6 a.m. on Oct. 3, 2009, shaking Romesha out of his bed into what Obama said has been called one of the most intense battles of the war.
The Americans were outmanned 53 to more than 300, but most survived.
Romesha, 31, listened to the commendation while fighting back tears, sometimes unsuccessfully. The families of his fallen comrades sat together, crying near the back of his East Room audience. Other troops who fought that day watched as the president placed the Medal of Honor hanging from a blue ribbon around Romesha’s neck.
‘‘I’m feeling conflicted with this medal I now wear,’’ Romesha said after the ceremony. ‘‘The joy comes from recognition for us doing our jobs as soldiers on distant battlefields but is countered by the constant reminder of the loss of our battle buddies, my battle buddies, my soldiers, my friends.’’
Eight US soldiers were killed and 22 wounded, including Romesha, who was peppered in the hip, arm, and neck with shrapnel from a grenade. He fought through his wounds to help lead other soldiers to safety and retrieve the bodies of fallen Americans.
He is the fourth living Medal of Honor recipient for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan.