East Alton soldier receives Army's Silver Star for valor
An Alton, Ill. soldier was awarded the Army's Silver Star, the third-highest military award for valor while on his fourth tour of duty.
Army Sgt. 1st Class John P. Fleming, 32, received the honor after tending to wounded soldiers and directing aircraft fending off enemy gunfire so the injured could be evacuated, the News Democrat reports. The incident is described in more detail:
Six soldiers in Fleming's platoon of 32 died in the Nov. 17 battle in Pech Valley in Kunar Province, including his roommate, Spc. Shannon Chihuahua of Thomasville, Ga. The soldiers were cut off from support from their main position.
"It was the first time he lost soldiers," Patrick Fleming [John Fleming's father] said.
John Fleming himself narrowly escaped death in the hail of bullets and shrapnel from the Taliban.
"He felt someone was watching out for him. Ten seconds before the bullets started raining in on him, he put his helmet on," Patrick Fleming said. "As soon as he put it on, it was 'bang-bang-bang.' He was hit three times in his helmet and once in the chest, but his body armor saved him."
A soldier-blogger from Lombard, Lt. Matthew Spartz, who was at the battle, said the valley is a Taliban "training haven."
Another southwestern Illinois soldier, Lance Cpl. Kenneth Corzine, who died Christmas Eve from wounds he received while fighting in Afghanistan, will be laid to rest today in his hometown of Bethalto.