Medal of Honor Recipient Reflects on Fierce Battle & Memorable NYSE Moment
Staff Sgt. Ryan Pitts sat down with Steve Doocy this morning to reflect on receiving the Medal of Honor from President Obama earlier this week. Pitts became the ninth living recipient of the nation’s highest military award for actions in Iraq and Afghanistan for his heroism during one of the deadliest battles of the Afghanistan war.
In the July 2008 Battle of Wanat, about 200 Taliban fighters attacked a remote U.S. outpost in eastern Afghanistan. The Taliban had the 48 American soldiers surrounded, with the high ground, and Pitts remembers enemy fighters being just 5-10 yards away from him at his observation post.
All of his fellow soldiers were either killed, wounded or had fallen back during the firefight, and Pitts fought on after sustaining serious wounds. He decided to throw "cooked off" grenades at the attackers, meaning he pulled the pin and held it for a few seconds before throwing it.
Pitts feared if he did not do that, the Taliban fighters would pick up a grenade and throw it back before it exploded.
At one point early in the battle, the soldiers received word that air support was not available. Doocy asked Pitts what he thought when he realized help was not coming.
"I just decided I wasn't gonna go down without a fight. Had to keep impacting the battle. Some of our guys had fought until their last breath and I owed it to them to do the same," said Pitts.
When he ran out of grenades to throw, he picked up a grenade launcher, firing it almost straight into the air since the enemy was so close to him.
He couldn't see where they were landing, but he responded "I guess so" when Doocy asked whether that tactic was effective. Eventually, help did arrive and U.S. air power was able to push back the Taliban forces.
Nine U.S. soldiers died in the battle.
"I think about them every day and probably especially so on that day [of the Medal of Honor ceremony]," he said, adding that he feels he was doing "what needed to be done."
Pitts was welcomed to the New York Stock Exchange for the closing bell. Things took an entertaining turn, though, when Pitts broke the gavel during the ceremonial end of the trading day.
Doocy joked that he's seen a million bell-ringing ceremonies at the stock exchange, but had never seen that happen.
"I just watched it sail over the balcony in slow motion," Pitts said. Pitts now works at Oracle Corp. in business development and has a one-year-old son, Lucas.
Watch the full interview above.