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James D. Ashley

U.S. Army / Silver Star

Shot while saving a comrade,
he refused medical attention
so others could be treated first

Spc. James D. Ashley’s platoon, nicknamed Killer Troop, pulled an early morning patrol on Nov. 12, 2008, from its outpost in downtown Mosul, arguably the most dangerous “post-surge” city in Iraq. The soldiers stopped afterward at a police station to meet with an Iraqi army unit.

As 1st Lt. Christopher Hanes went inside, the rest of his men waited outside in a courtyard in front of the station. Four armored vehicles and two Bradley tanks were parked on a nearby street. The building was well-protected from an outside attacker. But what if an attack came from inside the police station?

“I was facing away from where the incident started,” Ashley said. “I was facing out. I didn’t see where the gunman came from.”

The gunman, dressed as an Iraqi soldier and carrying an AK-47 charged with a 75-round drum, was just a few yards away from Ashley. Ashley, 26 at the time, reacted instinctively, his first move tackling Pvt. Jerry Viano – at 6-foot-4, a much larger man – who carried an M240 machine gun, in an effort to protect him.

As Ashley jumped on top of Viano, “that’s when I was shot,” Ashley recalled. The round sliced Ashley from his chin to his ear, blood hemorrhaging out of his face and covering his uniform.

Still, he continued to fight. He and other Killer Troop soldiers fired back, knocking the gunman to the ground.

“At that point, when I looked up, the guy … was still moving and reaching for his weapon,” he said. Ashley had reloaded his rifle after the Iraqi soldier was shot and fired numerous times “to make sure he was no longer a threat.”

Ashley and Viano then charged into the police station, joining Hanes, and checked room by room to make sure the Iraqi soldier didn’t have accomplices. The other Iraqis willingly consolidated themselves into one room. Hanes feared a second attack. It didn’t come.

The most seriously wounded were loaded onto the two Bradleys, destined for the nearest combat hospital. Hanes told Ashley to jump in with the next Medevac convoy. The specialist refused.

“All I knew is I was alive and breathing and these other guys were laying on the ground,” Ashley recalled.

Instead of receiving first aid, Ashley helped the medics administer it. Then he jumped in a vehicle and directed his driver to the hospital. Once there, he rolled up his sleeve and begged the nurses to draw his A-negative blood for another wounded soldier.

Ashley’s day, and combat tour, ended with a shot of morphine. He would be sent home the next day and later was awarded the Silver Star for his actions.

Two American soldiers were killed in the attack, and six others were injured. It could have been more.

This was Ashley’s second stint in the military. His first was a short one, truncated after an injury in basic training. After a few years in law enforcement, Ashley returned to the Army in April 2006.

He said he wanted to settle “unfinished business.”

Thomas L. Day is a military reporter for the (Macon, Ga.) Telegraph. As a member of the 101st Airborne Division in 2003-2004, he served in Kuwait and Mosul on the public affairs staff of Maj. Gen. David Petraeus. He is the author of

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When a gunman opened fire on his platoon, Spc. James Ashley's first instinct was to protect a fellow soldier. The other soldier was saved, but Ashley was shot in the face. (Photo courtesy of James Ashley)

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James D. Ashley

U.S. Army / Silver Star

Born May 19, 1982, in Key West, Fla,, and raised in the islands of the Florida Keys.

Unmarried, he is stationed at Fort Hood, Texas.

Enlisted in April 2006 and deployed to Iraq on Nov. 8, 2007.

This was Ashley’s first combat tour. He was in his 12th month in the country; his unit was scheduled to be deployed for 15 months, but he and much of his troupe left after the incident.

Ashley’s grandfather served in the Navy during World War II.

Ashley was shot in the face as he tackled and saved a fellow soldier before helping kill the attacker. He then refused to be evacuated and helped medics tend to other wounded soldiers first.

A specialist serving with 1st Platoon, K Troop, 3rd Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Division.

“I had already started the enlisted process because I wanted to be a sniper, then 9/11 happened and I just went down there and said, ‘Send me as soon a possible.’ ”

Iraq / Mosul

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