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Anthony L. Viggiani

U.S. Marine Corps / Navy Cross

Marine shows ‘extraordinary heroism’ while taking out enemy in Afghan valley

Sgt. Anthony Viggiani was on a high ridge when he heard 1st Sgt. Ernest Hoopii on the radio yelling for a hand grenade.

“Viggiani, Get down here now!” Hoopii said. “I need a frag. I need a frag, now!”

Viggiani responded quickly. “I started flying down the mountain, trying not to basically kill myself,” he recalled. “Rounds are flying everywhere at this time.”

Viggiani was a squad leader of C Company, Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 6th Marines, 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, operating in Afghanistan on June 3, 2004, near the village of Khabargho in Zabol Province.

The squad had just passed through the village when they were told that 15 to 20 people who appeared to be armed insurgents were pushing through the valley. A local was stopped and questioned, and he confirmed that they were indeed enemy fighters carrying AK 47s, rocket-propelled grenades and other weapons.

Viggiani and his men took off in pursuit. They continuously heard heavy weapons in the distance and concluded that another American unit was taking fire, but in the mountainous terrain, radio communications were difficult.

Moving quickly, the squad members approached a well-fortified ridge line where heavy machine-gun fire rained down on them from enemy snipers inside a cave. His men were pinned down and two, Cpl. Randy Wood and Lance Cpl. James Gould, were wounded.

Armed with a fragmentation grenade, designed to fling shrapnel when detonated, Viggiani worked his way to the cave opening.

“I start maneuvering. I start moving down and I saw an opening,” he said. “I pulled the pin on the frag and dropped it and took a few steps to my left and plastered myself against the rocks. The frag went off and made a pretty good mess. Clothing went everywhere, pieces went everywhere out of every crack and crevice.”

Three enemy fighters died in the cave, and the bunker was put out of commission.

Viggiani and his first sergeant began climbing back up the ridge, again under heavy machinegun fire. “Rounds were flying everywhere,” he said, so he called in air support. Apache helicopters “came in hot and heavy and started lighting up the valley to neutralize” some of the enemy positions.

Viggiani and his men continued maneuvering up the ridge line, killing 14 enemy fighters. He was wounded, taking a ricochet in the leg from a machine-gun bullet.

“I had blood all down my trousers,” he said.

Viggiani’s first sergeant ordered him to get help from a corpsmen but Viggiani refused until he knew his men were safe. When told they were OK, he agreed to be treated.

The sergeant, quickly bandaged, and his unit kept pushing through the valley.

For “extraordinary heroism,” Viggiani was awarded the Navy Cross, the second-highest honor for combat bravery.

After his return to the United States, Viggiani was assigned as a senior drill instructor at Parris Island and later completed a second tour of duty in Afghanistan in 2009-2010.

James C. Roberts is president of the American Veterans Center. From 1968 to 1971 he served as a naval officer aboard the destroyer USS Henderson.

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Marine Staff Sergeant Anthony Anthony Viggiani (left) with retired Air Force Colonel and Medal of Honor recipient George "Bud" Day at the American Veterans Center's 2006 Awards Banquet. Viggiani was the recipient of the Center's Paul Ray Smith Award for valor displayed in Afghanistan. Photo courtesy American Veterans Center

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Anthony L. Viggiani

U.S. Marine Corps / Navy Cross

Born March 1, 1980, in Strongsville, Ohio, which he still considers his hometown.

He and fiancée Meghann Everton, a Marine Corps gunnery sergeant who deployed in August for a nine-month assignment, have a two-year-old daughter, Adrienn.

What he did:
Crawled near the mouth of a cave from where enemy fighters were firing on trapped members of his squad, and killed the attackers with rifle fire and a grenade.

Where he is now:
Returned to U.S. in May 2010, from his second deployment in Afghanistan. Now a gunnery sergeant, he is stationed at Camp Lejeune, N.C., awaiting a new assignment.

Why he joined the Marines:
“I wanted to go into the Marine Corps pretty much my entire life since I was a little kid. I had relatives in the military; a cousin was in the Marine Corps. I thought it was a good thing to do.”

Afghanistan / Zabol Province

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