CAMP SALERNO, Afghanistan – A 19-year-old medic from Texas will become the first woman in Afghanistan and only the second female soldier since World War II to receive the Silver Star, the nation’s third-highest medal for valor.
Army Spc. Monica Lin Brown saved the lives of fellow soldiers after a roadside bomb tore through a convoy of Humvees in the eastern Paktia province on April 25, 2007, the military said.
After the explosion, which wounded five soldiers in her unit, Brown ran through insurgent gunfire and used her body to shield wounded comrades as mortars fell less than 100 yards away, the military said.
“I did not really think about anything except for getting the guys to a safer location and getting them taken care of and getting them out of there,” Brown said Saturday at a U.S. base in the eastern province of Khost.
Brown, of Lake Jackson, Texas, is scheduled to receive the Silver Star later this month. She was part of a four-vehicle convoy patrolling near Jani Kheil when a bomb struck one of the Humvees.
“We stopped the convoy. I opened up my door and grabbed my aid bag,” Brown said.
She started running toward the burning vehicle as insurgents opened fire. All five wounded soldiers had scrambled out.
“I assessed the patients to see how bad they were. We tried to move them to a safer location because we were still receiving incoming fire,” Brown said.
Pentagon policy prohibits women from serving in front-line combat roles – in the infantry, armor or artillery, for example. But the nature of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, with no real front lines, has seen women soldiers take part in close-quarters combat more than during previous conflicts.
Four Army nurses in World War II were the first women to receive the Silver Star, though three nurses serving in World War I were awarded the medal posthumously last year, according to the Army’s Web site.
Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester, of Nashville, Tenn., received the Silver Star in 2005 for gallantry during an insurgent ambush on a convoy in Iraq. Two men from her unit, the 617th Military Police Company of Richmond, Ky., also received the Silver Star for their roles in the same action.