The awarding of the Medal of Honor — the nation’s highest miliary honor — to Lowell native and New Hampshire resident Ryan Pitts is yet another reminder of the level of dedication and sacrifice by men and women in uniform. It’s also a reminder of the ongoing cost of war.
Pitts is receiving the award based on his actions in the 2008 Battle of Wanat, described by reporter Bryan Bender in a Globe profile of Pitts as “the deadliest single firefight involving US troops in the war in Afghanistan.” In that fight, approximately 200 Taliban fighters attacked a remote mountain outpost, killing nine US soldiers and wounding 27. Pitts’s actions included crawling under heavy fire while lobbing grenades and providing instructions for supporting fire from helicopter gunships. He did all this while suffering shrapnel wounds in his arms, legs, and chest.
Pitts is described by friends and family as being singularly self-possessed from a young age, during which he was raised by his grandparents in Vernon, N.H. He is the 16th Medal of Honor recipient since Sept. 11, 2001; he was 22 when he fought at Wanat. His comments on his award are typical of what we hear from war heroes: that he was just doing what any of his buddies would have done. “I think of the valor that was displayed by everyone who was there,” he said. “Guys who came home, and especially the guys who didn’t.”