Praising her son’s bravery and selflessness, Governor Charlie Baker presented a medal Wednesday to the mother of a soldier who died while saving seven others from a suicide bombing in Afghanistan.
Army Specialist Jonathan Curtis, a Belmont native who was killed in November 2010, was honored in a solemn ceremony at the State House.
His mother said she was proud to get the Massachusetts Medal of Liberty, but she reminded people that America still has soldiers in harm’s way overseas.
“I think a lot of people kind of forget about the war,” she said, noting that she has a niece now serving in Afghanistan as a surgeon. “A lot of people don’t think about it. . . . But there’s still people in need of being patched up, and there’s still casualties.”
Baker, along with National Guard Major General Gary W. Keefe, awarded her the medal as a crowd of friends, soldiers, and state officials looked on.
“Jon Curtis had a few seconds to make a very difficult decision, about how to deal with a terrorist and an IED. And he chose to put his own safety and his own life between him and everybody else,” Baker said.
“I always wonder about whether I would be selfless enough, or brave enough, to do something similar, and frankly I think most of us never know,” he said. “Because of other people like Jon, we will hopefully never have to face that choice.”
The medal is awarded to the next of kin of service members from the Commonwealth “who died in service while in a designated combat area in the line of duty or who died as a result of wounds received in action.” The medal combines elements of the Purple Heart and the Gold Star Mothers symbol.
Curtis was killed alongside Private First Class Andrew Meari, of Plainville, Ill., outside of Combat Outpost Senjaray in Afghanistan on Nov 1., 2010. A member of the local insurgency, wearing an improvised explosive device vest, attempted to enter the outpost but was stopped by Curtis and Meari. Unable to enter, the insurgent detonated his vest, killing himself and the two soldiers.
Curtis’s company commander later said that Curtis’s actions saved seven of his comrades’ lives.
Keefe said on behalf of the military, “Your son had that steel in his backbone. Jon saved lives that day.”
Baker said what Curtis did was “generous and courageous, and a decision made in a moment.”
“He paid a terrible price for that and so did you, and so did his family, and so did his friends, and that’s a price you pay every day,” Baker said to Pamela Curtis. “I hope in some way remembering Jon, honoring Jon, and saying God bless and thank you . . . is in some small way a recognition of how much what he did meant to us as a Commonwealth.”