Thursday, April 27, 2006

A Day for Heroes, chapter 2: Martin Richburg

Staff Sgt. Martin Richburg; photo by Monte Morin, Stars and StripesA much more recent example of heroism also saved the lives of soldiers and civilians alike in Al Kisik, Iraq. U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Martin Richburg — "a heavy-vehicle mechanic assigned to the 142nd Maintenance Company" — was off-duty, relaxing in the cab of his tuck and talking to his wife on a cell phone, when he spotted "an Iraqi civilian pacing nervously near the camp's crowded Internet cafe."

As Richburg watched, the man climbed up on a chair and placed a plastic-wrapped package on top of the cafe's A/C window unit, then "took off running." Richburg immediately sprinted after the man, subduing the suspect with a tackle and his 9mm sidearm. Quickly discovering that the suspicious package was indeed a bomb, Richburg headed straight back to the cafe.
Dragging the insurgent in one hand and waving his pistol in the other, the burly mechanic rushed to the cafe entrance and began shouting at everyone to get out.

Shocked by the sight of Richburg waving a pistol and swearing at the top of his lungs, a dozen soldiers and five civilians piled out of the cafe. The mechanic yelled at them to take cover behind a line of concrete blast barriers.

The soldiers braced themselves. After roughly 15 minutes, the package exploded with the noise of an artillery shell. The windshield of Richburg's truck "crystallized" by the blast, and a Porta-John was flung into a nearby meadow. The window of the Internet cafe was destroyed, driving glass and shrapnel deep into the walls and computer booths.

Since the cafe had been cleared, nobody was injured.
Staff Sgt. Richburg, who has been nominated for a Bronze Star for his life-saving actions, responded to interviews with true heroic humility. "I suppose anyone else would have done it, too."

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