LACEY, WA – Family, friends and soldiers gathered at Saint Martin’s Marcus Pavilion March 20 for a valorous award ceremony to recognize and award soldiers for their combat achievements in Afghanistan.
Two soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, assigned to Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., were presented Silver Stars. Members of the battalion also received seven Bronze Star Medals with “V” device, 11 Purple Hearts, four Army Commendation Medals with “V” device and a Joint Service Commendation Medal with “V” device during the ceremony.
Spc. Ricardo Cerros Jr. of Los Angeles, was a graduate of University of California, Irvine, and was an Army Ranger for only eight months before he was killed in action. He was awarded the Silver Star posthumously.
Cerros was a rifleman with the battalion in Afghanistan when he was mortally wounded fighting against enemy insurgents barricaded in a compound in the Logar province. According to the 75th Ranger Regiment biographical sketch, during the battle Cerros exposed himself to enemy fire so that he was able to pull his wounded platoon sergeant to safety. He then shielded his team members from an enemy grenade, giving his life, as they provided medical assistance to the injured soldiers.
Sgt. 1st Class Nick Moore, who was Cerros’ platoon sergeant at the time, and because of Cerros’ heroic actions is alive today.
After the ceremony, Moore shared his experience while serving with the young ranger.
“He had a college degree, was a little bit older, a little more mature,” said Moore, a 14-year Ranger veteran. “He was always that guy in the right place at the right time, doing the right thing. Everything we look for in all the people we have around us.”
Sgt. Peter S. Cimpoes also was awarded a Silver Star for his valorous actions in Afghanistan. However, he never knew what it meant to be a Ranger until he met with his recruiter and signed up to be one. All he knew was they jumped out of planes and used guns, he said.
Little did he know that becoming a Ranger would put him through a life or death decision to save himself and his team.
On Oct. 11, 2012, Cimpoes was operating as the assault team Reconnaissance Surveillance Target Acquisition Technician during a mission in Afghanistan. He and his team were on a mission to assault a compound known to be associated with insurgent activity.
As the assault played out, two Rangers were wounded after receiving fire from enemy combatants. Without concern for his personal safety Cimpoes immediately exposed himself to direct enemy gunfire to take position and engage three enemy fighters at close distance. By employing grenades and small arms, Cimpoes was able to protect his wounded teammates so that they could be evacuated, according to the after action report.
The battalion has been deployed 15 times, through two different conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq over the past ten years the Rangers have played a valuable part in support of the global war on terrorism.
Despite their known toughness and aggressive nature, these Rangers share a sense of humility about the awards they received.
“I would trade all this and everything I’ve done in the military to bring Sgt. McPhearson [who died from wounds suffered during the mission] back,” said Cimpoes, a Chicago native. “The fact he laid down his life and sacrificed everything for what we believe in and what we live for. “
I Corps commanding general, Lt. Gen. Robert B. Brown, took the opportunity to share some of his feelings about what it meant to have the privilege of presenting these awards.
“I tell you, this is one of the most rewarding parts of my job. To pin these medals of valor on the chests of our soldiers whose acts of individual gallantry and valor have now added to the legends of the United States Army and our nation,” said Brown. “All of the awardees here epitomize selfless service to a cause greater than themselves.”
As the ceremony concluded the sound of the Ranger Creed reverberated through the pavilion. “…a Ranger is a more elite soldier, who arrives at the cutting edge of battle by land, sea or air, I accept the fact that as a Ranger my country expects me to move further, faster and fight harder than any other soldier.”