News: Pashto linguist awarded Bronze Star for selflessness
Story by Sgt. Marcy Sanchez
CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. - A Marine with I Marine Expeditionary Force, received a Bronze Star with combat distinguishing device during an awards ceremony here, May 20.
Cpl. Zachary D. Byron, a Pashto linguist currently assigned to 1st Radio Battalion, was presented the Bronze Star and Purple Heart for actions while serving with 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment in November 2010.
Byron’s squad was caught in an enemy ambush in the vicinity Durzay, Afghanistan located in southern Helmand province.
“You can never simulate that kind of environment ever again,” said Byron, from Marion, N.Y. “It was a wakeup call for all of us. When the guy in front of me got hit I couldn’t see him, but I heard him yelling. I immediately got up and moved toward him.”
Byron, 23, was shot in the wrist and thigh as he tried to render aid on the injured Marine in front of him.
“When I got shot in my leg everything kind of stopped,” Byron said. “I got a feeling of straight fear -- fear that things were going to get a lot worse.”
As he fell in and out of consciousness from blood loss, he continued to translate enemy communications, allowing the squad to avert another assault.
“I had a sense of loyalty to my job and my troops to make sure I didn’t fail them,” Byron said.
Sgt. Maj. Albert Diaz, the sergeant major of 1st Radio Bn., complimented Byron’s humbling personality and wasn’t surprised to hear of his heroic actions.
“He is always going out of his way to help somebody,” Diaz said. “He is always sought out for advice.”
Sgt. Michael J. McCabe said the Bronze Star is well deserved and is witness to Byron’s outstanding performance.
“He’s very selfless when it comes to his job and accomplishing his tasks,” said McCabe, a team trainer with Headquarters and Support Company, 1st Radio Bn., who served as Byron’s team leader in Afghanistan. “I don’t think there’s enough you can say about his performance. He’s by far the best Marine I’ve ever worked with.”
“It’s a great honor, not just for me, but for 1st Radio Bn.,” Byron said. “There were a lot of Marines in the squad whose actions encouraged me to push on.”
The Bronze Star is awarded for the fourth highest award received for combat actions in the U.S. Armed Forces.