Staff Sergeant Ronald Shurer II, a Special Forces Soldier who won the Medal of Honor, was laid to Arlington National Cemetery on Tuesday.
SSG Ronald Shurer had died of cancer in May.
It was during a fierce battle in a deployment to Afghanistan in 2008 that Shurer earned the highest medal for valor under fire in the American military.
On April 6, 2008, Shurer was serving as a Special Forces Medical Sergeant (18D) in Operational Detachment Alpha 3336, 3rd Special Forces Group. His team had gone out on a mission to kill or capture several high-value-targets from the Hezb-e Islami al Gulbadin group, a fringe militant group that had allied with the Taliban and al-Qaeda. The group’s stronghold was at Shok Valley, Nuristan, which is located in northeastern Afghanistan.
The Green Berets and their Afghan commando partners encountered unexpectedly fierce resistance from the enemy fighters. The rough mountainous terrain made their job that much harder.
“It was kind of quiet, then all of a sudden, everything exploded all at once – machine gun fire, some RPGs [rocket-propelled grenades] started going off,” said a Green Beret who was on the mission. “[The insurgents] had some pretty good shooters and a lot of people up there waiting for us.”
Although half of the team was wounded, four critically, they kept fighting on. In the end, they killed an estimated 150 to 200 enemy during the seven-hour Battle of Shok Valley.
It was mainly because of Shurer that all Americans came out alive from that mountainside. Despite his wounds, time and again he exposed himself to aid his brothers or to neutralize an enemy position.
In his Medal of Honor interview, Shurer had said that “We don’t go out on a mission where we don’t expect to meet some resistance, but this was unlike anything we’d ever faced before.” Adding that despite his valiant actions, “This award is not mine. This award wouldn’t exist without the team. If they weren’t doing their job, I wouldn’t have been able to do my job.”
One year after the action, in 2009, Shurer had left the Army to join the U.S. Secret Service, where he served in the elite Counter Assault Team (CAT) in Washington, D.C.
An astounding 10 Green Berets out of the 12-man team won the Silver Star, the third-highest award for valor, on that day. It was the first time since the Vietnam War that so many Silver Stars were awarded for a single action. Shurer’s medal was upgraded to the Medal of Honor. Sergeant Major Matthew Williams’ Silver Star (at the time he was a sergeant) was also upgraded to the Medal of Honor. Interestingly, Shurer saved Williams’ life during the battle, which was one of the actions that qualified him for the Medal of Honor.
This is the second time in special operations history that a future Medal of Honor recipient saves the life of another.
During the Vietnam War, then Petty Officer Mike Thornton had saved the life of Lieutenant Thomas Norris. Part of a small special operations team, the two Navy SEALs were conducting an intelligence-gathering mission when they came upon a significantly larger force of North Vietnamese troops. Both men were wounded, Norris losing an eye and barely surviving.
President Trump awarded SSG Ronald Shurer the Medal of Honor in a White House ceremony on October 1, 2018.
Shurer was only 41 years old when he died. He is survived by his wife and two sons.