Arkansas Army National Guard / Silver Star
He methodically eliminated
an enemy machine-gun crew
after being injured by shrapnel
The door to his armored vehicle was destroyed. His radio operator lay critically wounded. Injuries incapacitated the gunner. The driver was unconscious. Shrapnel had pierced 1st Lt. Michael McCarty himself, but he knew he had to act fast.
When he spotted an enemy machine-gun crew preparing to fire on the wounded vehicle, McCarty, a farmer from Bald Knob, Ark., leaped from the still-moving M1114 Humvee and closed in to stop the danger.
One by one he picked off the machine-gun crew over the next few minutes, moving from cover to cover as team members supported him with fire from behind.
“I didn’t have much of a choice,” McCarty recalls. “Something had to be done about that machine gun.”
Once the machine gun was silenced, McCarty’s soldiers moved house to house in the dense Baghdad neighborhood.
“We tried to box them in, basically,” he says. “There was very little room — narrow streets, people with cars on the side. We were trying to find the enemy and engage them.”
McCarty was awarded the Silver Star for his actions on Nov. 20, 2004. Many platoon members also received honors.
“They were all heroes in my book,” he said. “I’m just lucky I had the soldiers I had.
“There were 26 heroes that day, because if any one of us hadn’t done our job, then there would have been a lot more casualties than there were.”
The Americans — part of Company C, Third Battalion, 39th Brigade Combat Team, attached under command of the First Cavalry, Fort Hood, Texas — faced up to 100 combatants on that day during their mission to protect a Baghdad police station.
McCarty’s vehicle was blasted when the platoon was returning to the police station. Earlier in the day, the Arkansas guardsmen lost a vehicle to enemy gunfire in the neighborhood. After depleting most of its ammunition, the platoon returned to its base to treat two casualties, repair and restock.
Upon their return, the Arkansans battled enemy fighters for an hour and a half, McCarty recalls, but “it seemed like a couple of days.”
Most Baghdad houses have flat roofs, offering residents a cooling respite from summer heat. But the roofs also give insurgents a high vantage point to direct fire on U.S. soldiers.
And with most of their battalion fighting elsewhere, “There weren’t many people available to help us,” he said. Eventually an Apache gunship came to their aid and ended the battle.
McCarty’s Silver Star commendation cited the defeat of a larger force — and much more — by the then-24-year-old officer. “His aggressive leadership, indomitable spirit, and physical courage saved the lives of his soldiers and prevented enemy forces from continuing to mass on the Zone 18 IP Station. Throughout the fight, he led from the front without regard for his own personal safety.”
It went on to say that he represents “the epitome of the American combat leader and United States Army Infantry officer.”
McCarty’s twin brother, Patrick, was a sniper team leader, and the two served side by side in Iraq until the brother’s unit returned home before the attack in which McCarty earned his medal.
Patrick McCarty “was honored three times for valor, so I had pretty good-sized shoes to fill,” Michael says.
While grateful for the military accolades, McCarty cherishes an action by Patrick even more.
“He has a 2-year boy,” he says. “They named him after me. That’s the biggest honor I ever had.”
Lewis Delavan writes for the Arkansas News Bureau in Little Rock.
Arkansas Army National Guard / Silver Star
Born Jan. 12, 1980, and is a lifelong resident of White County, Ark., where he works on the family farm.
Married Melanie Humes on Sept. 5, 2009.
Earned associate's degree in agriculture from Arkansas State University at Beebe and a bachelor's degree from ASU in Jonesboro. McCarty was inducted into ASU Reserve Officer Training Corps’ Hall of Heroes last Veterans Day.
WHAT HE DID
Led a platoon that took on an enemy force more than three times its size, as it shielded a Baghdad police station from attack.
WHERE HE IS NOW
Back in Bald Knob, he is a member of the Disabled American Veterans, as most of his left lung was removed in an operation for a condition he picked up serving overseas, he says. “I have good days and bad days,” he says. His Guard unit is working on medical-discharge paperwork.
WHY HE JOINED THE NATIONAL GUARD
“I joined the National Guard for the college benefits, and ROTC was a way to progress in the Guard while going to school full time.”
Iraq / Baghdad