Woman Soldier Awarded Silver Star
A servicewoman was awarded the Silver Star June 16 for action against an armed enemy in Iraq, making her the first woman since World War II to receive one of the nation’s highest awards for valor. Army SGT Leigh Ann Hester, of the 617th Military Police Company, KY National Guard, and two other members of her unit received the Silver Star for their actions during an enemy ambush of their convoy on March 20. Other members of the unit were also decorated for their actions.
On a mission to search convoy routes for Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and to provide additional security to sustainment convoys, the 23-year-old Hester and her team were shadowing a convoy of 30 semi-tractor trailers when the insurgents attacked. From within irrigation ditches in an orchard near the road, 50 enemy fighters launched their complex attack on the convoy with heavy machine-gun fire and Rocket Propelled Grenades, as well as using parked cars along the route to prohibit movement of US troops. Leading her team through the “kill zone” and into a flanking position, Hester assaulted a trench line with grenades and M203 grenade-launcher rounds. Then she and squad leader SGT Timothy Nein cleared two trenches and Hester killed three insurgents, according to an American Forces Information Service news article. When the firefight ended, only three US soldiers were injured, while 27 Iraqis were dead, six wounded and one captured.
Hester, a Nashville resident who joined the National Guard in 2001, is one of only 14 women in US military history to receive the Silver Star. In addition to six Army nurses in World War I, seven Army nurses were decorated for valor for their actions at the 56th Evacuation Hospital and 33rd Field Hospital in Anzio, Italy, during World War II.