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Christopher Adlesperger was a "soft hearted kid" his grandmother said.

by Norman Fulkerson

Christopher Adlesperger, of Albuquerque, New Mexico, received the Navy Cross when he singled handedly eliminated 13 Taliban in a vicious firefight. While he will always be remembered for the outstanding actions, which earned him a Navy Cross, his grandmother, Lynda Adlesperger, described the young man behind the heroics.

He is most commonly described, by those who knew him, as a soft-spoken, religious young man who loved poetry and art. What people don’t know are the difficulties he had to endure early in life.

When only 3 years old his parents divorced, leaving Christopher with the struggles of growing up in a single parent household. Like many children of divorce, Christopher was forced to grow up quickly. He also showed a great sensitivity towards the weakness and vulnerability of those around him and never refused them a helping hand.

When bullies at school singled out the weaker kid to pester, Christopher was the one stepped in to defend the innocent.

“Chris was so soft hearted,” Mrs. Adelsperger said, “he would do anything to help someone who was less fortunate. He was always for the underdog.”

His interventions were never done in anger however since he was generally not one to lose his temper. In fact he was a very easygoing kid who was known to play practical jokes and tease people. Mrs. Adlesperger witnessed a sample of his lighthearted banter one day when their elderly neighbor lady, out of gratitude for Christopher’s help, baked him some cookies. This was her way of repaying the young man for voluntarily mowing her lawn. With a twinkle in his eye, Christopher looked at his grandfather Edwin and said, “You don’t get any.” Only after a long and playful exchange between the two, did Christopher allow his “grandpa” a sample.

 

2001 photo of Christopher left with his grandfather, the same year that Edwin Adlesperger was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.

Turning point in his life

After his parents divorce, he practically grew up in his grandparent’s home and became extremely attached to his Grandfather. It was clear that of all Mr. Adlesperger’s grandchildren, Christopher was without a doubt, his favorite. Seeing the struggles he faced, Mr. Adlesperger paid a lot of attention to him, helped him when he was in trouble and was always there to listen.

In 1998 Mr. Adlesperger health began to decline rapidly due to emphysema and an enlarged heart. In 2001, when Christopher was only 14, Edwin was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Christopher was devastated. He had grown so accustomed to rely on his grandfather’s guidance during difficult times. True to his nature, he remained strong for his grandmother. Mr. Adlesperger would now need round the clock care, and she needed his help.

“You could not have asked for a better kid,” she said.

 

“I am going to be the best.”

In 2004 Edwin Adlesperger died and Christopher felt completely lost and without direction.

“He didn’t fit in anywhere, except with his grandfather,” Mrs. Aldersperger said. “At 19 years of age,” she continued, “he decided to join the Marines.

“Of all the [branches] why Marines?, she asked.

“If I am going to [join the military],” he responded, “I am going to be the best. I am not going to waste my life and I am not going to be one of those people that get into trouble.”

Within a week of this decision, he was gone.

After boot camp, he came to see his grandmother one last time, in September of 2004, before deploying to Iraq. She described him as being nervous, but he faced his fear like a man.

When asked why he chose to join the Marines, Christopher, shown here in his dress blues, responded, "I am going to be the best."

“Its my duty as a Marine,” he said, “I will do whatever I have to do.”

On November 4, 2004, Mrs. Adlesperger received a letter from him. Always thinking about others, he simply wanted to let his grandmother know he was okay.

“Let me say sorry because I am writing in the dark. Everything out here is going all right. It’s pretty crazy though, let me just say that. We are getting ready to make the second biggest urban assault in Marine history here in a couple of days so we keep pretty busy. I do not have time to write a lot but I just wanted to thank you and hope that you are doing well. Take care of yourself and I hope to hear from you soon. Love Christopher.”

The Battle For Fallujah

On November 10, 2004, Pfc. Christopher Adlesperger entered the hall of heroes and is considered to be responsible for destroying the last strong point in the battle for Fallujah. It occurred when Pfc. Adlesperger’s squad was clearing houses in the Jolan district of Al Fallujah. As they burst through the gate of one house, they were hit with heavy fire from a well-prepared entrenched machine gun position from within the house. His best friend, Lance Cpl. Erick Hodges, was immediately shot and killed while others were wounded.

A violent shootout ensued with both sides squaring off a mere 20 feet from each other. As the Marines fought back, terrorist inside the building began lobbing grenades. A sniper in a nearby alleyway picked off corpsmen, radio operators and anyone else attempting to lend a helping hand.

As the world crumbled around him, Christopher Adlesperger exposed himself to machine gun fire in order to help those wounded reach the safety of an outdoor stairway leading to the roof. During the process bullets tugged at his clothing while shrapnel from a fragmentation grenade ripped through his face causing intense bleeding. All of this made an impossible situation worse. Looking death in the Pfc. Adlesperger continued to exchange fire with the machine gunner, when he saw several terrorist storm the staircase. He quickly eliminated them, before arriving to the roof where the wounded were able to receive medical treatment.

As he looked down at the carnage below he was horrified to see several terrorists unnecessarily riddle the lifeless body of Eric Hodges before putting one last shot in his head. As another terrorist ran from the house to retrieve Hodges weapon, Pfc. Adlesperger stopped him dead in his tracks with a single shot.

Meanwhile the machine gunner inside the building continued to hold Marines at bay. Adlesperger laid his M-16 down long enough to blow holes in the side of the house with his grenade launcher. Four insurgents fled the barrage only to find themselves in Christopher’s crosshairs and were quickly eliminated as well.

The rest of the days event are aptly narrated in the Navy Cross citation:

 

 

The Navy Cross

Disregarding his own wounds and physical exhaustion, Private First Class Adlesperger rejoined his platoon and demanded to take point for a final assault on the same machine gun position. Once an Assault Amphibian Vehicle created a breach in the wall adjacent to the enemy’s position, Private First Class Adlesperger was the first Marine to re-enter the courtyard where he eliminated a remaining insurgent at close range. When the fighting finally ceased, a significant number of insurgents from fortified positions had been eradicated. Through his actions, Private First Class Adlesperger destroyed the last strongpoint in the Jolan District of Al Fallujah and saved the lives of his fellow Marines.[1]

“When it was over, Adlesperger’s face was covered in blood, while his uniform had bullet holes in the sleeve and collar. In spite of his condition “he refused to be evacuated until Hodges’ body was recovered.”[2]

Although Christopher Adlesperger survived that terrible battle, he would not endure a similarly intense encounter with the enemy a month later. As our Nation was deciding on whether this brave young man would receive the Medal of Honor or Navy Cross, Christopher gave the ultimate sacrifice and was gunned down during another intense firefight.

Once again he had taken the lead position when his battalion was assigned to sweep another neighborhood in Fallujah. As they entered a non descript house, Pfc. Adlesperger was hit with multiple rounds which spun him around: one bullet slipped by the protective plates in his body army, pierced his heart and killed him instantly.[3]

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Christopher Adlesperger at work in his grandfather's backyard. He was always willing to help those in need and defend the underdog.

After his death Good Morning America did a segment on Christopher Adelsperger. In it they showed clips of the Marine laughing as he handed candy to Iraqi children, out the window of his Humvee. Mrs. Adelsperger said it portrayed her grandson in a very “care free way.”

When we contemplate the life of this extraordinary young man, we are amazed at the remarkable transformation Christopher Adlesperger underwent in just three-month-period. From care giver to his grandfather, he became a United States Marine and rapidly went on to become a national hero. Yet through it all he retained the same upbeat spirit, determination and the willingness to help those in most need. While a bullet might have stopped Christopher Adlesperger’s very big heart, it did nothing to diminish America’s affection for someone who is truly a Modern American Hero.


[1]http://militarytimes.com/citations-medals-awards/recipient.php?recipientid=3651

[2] http://www.copthetruth.com/cop_the_truth/2006/10/uncommon_valor_.html

[3] Ibid

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SSG Salvatore Giunta

by Jim Hanson

“SSG Sal Giunta, a paratrooper w/ the 173rd Airborne, is likely to be the first living Medal of Honor recipient since the Vietnam War. He earned this by charging a group of Taliban who were trying to make off with a wounded comrade in the Korengal Valley of Afghanistan. His actions broke the Taliban’s attack and allowed him to regain control of SGT Josh Brennan. He also saved the lives of the many other members of his unit who had been caught in a near ambush by the Taliban.  Giunta didn’t hesitate one second before advancing on his own to ensure the enemy would never take one of ours, but sadly Josh Brennan was too badly wounded too survive. His cousin PVT Joe Brennan recently graduated airborne school and has joined the same unit proudly carrying on Josh’s memory.

…Giunta was a Specialist when the action occurred and his squad was hit with a well-planned ambush at extremely close range. He was the trail team leader and Josh Brennan was the lead. When the fighting started Brennan was severely wounded, their squad leader was knocked to the ground, their medic was killed and several others were wounded. Giunta immediately began maneuvering toward the enemy throwing grenades and eventually charging them when he saw two of them hauling Josh away. He emptied a magazine killing one and wounding the other and grabbed Brennan telling Josh to stay with him so that he would get a chance to tell heroic stories. They did get Brennan on a medevac chopper, but unfortunately his wounds were too severe and he didn’t survive. But Giunta’s actions stopped the Taliban from taking him and by running headlong at the enemy he disrupted the ambush. SSG Giunta’s story can be read in Junger’s book “War” starting on page 115.

It has been far too long since we have awarded the Medal of Honor to someone who survived, and SSG Giunta is a wonderful addition to the ranks of those who have earned our country’s highest honor. There are a number of others under consideration for this decoration and hopefully this is a sign that more of these brave warriors will be recognized. We have heard this was approved by the White House and they are only waiting to set a date for the ceremony.

We salute SSG Giunta and all who serve or have served our country….”

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The report below was sent by a Company Commander of the Third Battalion, Fourth Marines serving in Afghanistan. Such a positive report is not the type of thing we commonly see in our papers here and is worth reading.

Village of Now Zad in Helmand province, Afghanistan.

“I finally have a minute to sit down and write a letter concerning the past few weeks here in Now Zad.  I wanted to make sure that I got the word out to everyone, so please send this out to friends and family that I may have missed on the distr[ibution] list.  I first want to say how incredibly proud of my boys I am.  These Marines have been amazing and continue to be amazing. Between them and the amazing support staff that we have in 3/4 that allows us to do quite literally whatever we want to the Taliban, this has almost been an easy operation.  Here are the up sides:

1) Not a single Marine was killed or seriously wounded during this operation.

2) We have taken more ground, run off more Taliban, liberated more villages, and seized more weapons and Home Made Explosives than has ever happened in Now Zad.  One of the caches of HME that we blew up was over 1100 lbs of HME (for a reference, that’s over 16 “Mine-Proof” vehicles completely destroyed) and it was the largest find in Helmand Province.  Ever.

Marines from the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines taking the fight to the enemy.

3) We air inserted two companies, behind enemy lines, while my company went straight up the gut of the enemy’s defense on the ground.  The enemy was so terrified that he abandoned his stockpiles and ran away to where he thought he was safe.  Some of them ran right into the arms of the British Battalion to our East, some of them we have hunted down since they ran.

More importantly, we have begun to HOLD the ground by immediately building coalition positions in strategic locations all over the valley and partnering with the local Police and Army units.  Let’s not forget, the infantry is a TERRAIN based organization.  We don’t have to kill people in order to do our job, only if those people don’t want us on that specific piece of dirt and wants to come get a taste.

4) We aggressively sought out and crushed a Murder and Intimidation racket that was going on in our AO.  (M&I campaigns are used when the enemy has no other tactic but overwhelming fear to instill on the local population.  The ‘night letters’ that were being delivered said things like: “If you accept help from Coalition Forces we will kill your children one by one…”  Except that Marines got to the letter writers first.  Whammy.

5) We have re-opened a once deserted town to the people and have begun to pay them to clean it up.  Quick cash infusion + Heavy labor for young men + promise of more work = no young guys re-enlisting in the Taliban.  One of the key components of this plan was to instantly follow up with a Civil Affairs Group that would handle local national problems that weren’t related to the Taliban (food, shelter, work, etc…)

6) We have begun Medical Programs for the locals with what supplies we have.  Those supplies are limited, but they are able to cover things like burns, and kids stepping on mines (yes, we MedEvac them just like we would a Marine), and skin rashes, and even an infant with pneumonia who is just fine, now.

7) Our engineers breached a mine-field that had completely frozen other forces.  Our Danish friends brought some tanks to help us out and they were able to break up one or two ambushes for us.  Nothing is cooler than getting ambushed and having tanks with you to respond.  Nothing.

Lance Corporal Jeremy R. Riddle, looks through his scope for any threats in Kabul, Afghanistan. (February, 2003)

8.) Your Marines stayed on point, in the freezing cold weather, with the rain soaking them to the bone, to hunt down the Taliban who had been abusing, killing, and stealing from the people of the Now Zad Valley.

9) We are bringing back government into Now Zad, so people have an alternative than the Taliban to settle their legal disputes, and have someone to hold accountable for a lack of medical coverage, and to go to with their grievances about farming and commerce and security.  They won’t NEED us to hold them up any longer.

If all of this sounds like hubris, maybe it is.  But I’m so proud of my Company and my Battalion for the planning and the execution and the follow through that they have done.  Be proud of your Marines, they did good workin December.  Merry Christmas to everyone.  Much Love to all, let your friends know, we’re winning and it feels good.”

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