Medal of Honor Recipient, Ryan Pitts, Honors Spouses and Family…
During the Battle of Wanat, one of the fiercest battles of the war, Staff Sergeant Ryan Pitts was the sole survivor of his outpost; but fought alongside many others. On July 21st, SSG Pitts received the Congressional Medal of Honor for Valor during a ceremony held at the White House. Shortly after receiving our Nation’s highest military honor, former SSG Pitts sat down with several battle buddies in the Pentagon. Pitts sat alongside First Sergeant David Dzwik, Major Mathew Meyer, Brian Hissong and Mike Denton, all of whom were with him that day in Afghanistan.
Honoring the nine that died that day sheds the light on the kind of person Ryan Pitts is and has become. Before accepting the award, Pitts made it clear he would only attend and accept if the families of his fallen brothers from that day were also in attendance. The White House made that happen.
It’s been several years since that day in 2008, and Pitts has since gone to school, gotten married and started his family. “I never wanted the award, but the time was good for me to reflect on what had happened.” As time went on Pitts believed that– “What we did that day was always enough for me.”
This is a mantra spoken by many Medal of Honor recipients before him. The award comes at a high cost in the eyes of those who receive it. The men surrounding Pitts echo his sentiment. From the way the honorable way they interact it could have been any of them that received the award. The camaraderie is evident in the easy way they talk and the admiration they clearly have for one another.
In final statements all of them speak of how the families involved with those present at the battle deserve praise. “I don’t know how they do it,” is a phrase spoken several times. We may look at them much like a small child would look upon a super hero. The men in the room look at their spouses and families in the same way. It’s the family of Ryan Pitts, and the families of the other men, that receive some of the highest praise given that day.
Denton, who was there that day, was one of the few men in the room who had been married on the day of the battle. “Family comes first,” he says, and it is clear that having their families with them as they go through this has been important to them. “It’s not about the valor, it’s about the men caring for each other,” says Denton.
The families are major part of that support. The soldiers try to get together at least once a year, they talk frequently and keep up with each other; their spouses and family members have followed suit. Brian Hissong shares that at the time of the battle he had only been dating his high school girlfriend for a short time. “I give her a lot of credit for sticking around.”
Pitts had not even met his wife at the time, but says that this has been a really good experience for them as a couple. “She’s handled it so well.”
It can be emotional to hear such brave men, who have experienced so much in their lives, speak about their loved ones in this way. Spouses and families are typically not the ones in the spotlight, nor do they actively seek that for themselves. It is men like these that embody what it truly means to be a hero, on and off the battlefield. The military family is a vital part of the morale and welfare of our troops. The men in the room at the Pentagon, clearly seem to know this.