A U.S. soldier in Afghanistan who lost his life protecting those around him has received America's highest military honor. As President Barack Obama presented the Medal of Honor to the family of a man who he said embodied the true meaning of heroism.
President Obama says Staff Sergeant Robert J. Miller, a member of the Army's elite special forces, showed immeasurable courage on January 25, 2008, the day he died.
Miller and more than 20 other Americans and Afghans were patrolling a valley in northwest Afghanistan, trying to clear the area of insurgents who had been attacking Afghan soldiers and villagers.
When Miller and his group reached an insurgent compound, they opened fire and called in airstrikes, then assessed the damage.
They were soon trapped and surrounded by almost 150 insurgents.
Mr. Obama says Sgt. Miller called for his team to fall back, while he intentionally put himself in danger.
"And then he did something extraordinary," said President Obama. "Rob moved in the other direction, toward the enemy, drawing their guns away from his team and bringing the fire of all those insurgents down upon himself."
The president says the other soldiers in the unit retreated to safety, while Miller stayed in radio contact.
"He had been hit," said Mr. Obama. "But still, he kept calling out enemy positions. Still, he kept firing. Still, he kept throwing his grenades. And then they heard it - Rob's weapon fell silent."
Two team members braved enemy fire to return to Miller's side, and were there when he died. When reinforcements arrived, the team fought for hours to remove his body. Five troops were wounded, but all had survived. According to the Medal of Honor citation, Miller's extraordinary valor saved the lives of seven members of his own team and 15 Afghan soldiers.
Miller's parents said he had wanted to be a soldier all of his life. President Obama said his heroism will inspire future generations.
"And we can imagine a day, decades from now, when another child sits down at his desk, ponders the true meaning of heroism, and finds inspiration in the story of a soldier, Staff Sergeant Robert J. Miller, and a generation that fought day and night, fighting for what they thought was right," said President Obama.
Sgt. Miller's parents, Phil and Maureen Miller, accepted the medal on their son's behalf. After the ceremony, they said their son believed he was working for a good cause.