WALLA WALLA - A former U.S. Marine and Walla Walla native, Nat Small, has been awarded the Bronze Star with Valor Device for actions during his service in Afghanistan.
The medal, the fourth highest combat award in the U.S. armed forces, was presented Friday at the Marine Corps Ball in Yakima.
According to the official citation, Small was awarded the honor "for heroic service in connection with combat operations against the enemy" between April 18 and June 22, 2010. At that time, Small was a lance corporal serving as assistant team leader of a scout sniper platoon in the Helmand province of Afghanistan.
Among Small's actions described in the citation were events on June 22 when his unit engaged enemy fighters and a fellow Marine, who was a close friend of Small's, was mortally wounded.
According to the citation, Small immediately returned fire with his rifle, killing an enemy fighter and was continuing to engage attackers when a rocket-propelled grenade exploded next to him. Despite shrapnel wounds in his legs and a traumatic brain injury, Small went on to help move his wounded squad mate to a safe position.
As a corpsman treated the man, Small continued suppressing enemy fire and also assisted with providing cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Then when a medical evacuation helicopter arrived, Small helped carry the wounded man onto the aircraft.
After this, "despite enemy fire, wounds in his legs and barely being able to stand, Lance Corporal Small went back to where the enemy fighter had died and collected his (grenade launcher) and grenades so that no other enemy fighters could use them. Only after the team was safe inside friendly lines ... did Lance Corporal Small admit to his team leader that he was wounded to the point that he could not stand or see anymore," the citation read.
Small was evacuated and flown to Germany for treatment, then returned to the United States to continue his recuperation. After being promoted to corporal, he was discharged and has since returned to civilian life.
Small was featured in a Nov. 25, 2010, Union-Bulletin article titled, "The Ties that Bind," about how soldiers' bonds become those of their families after one is lost at war.