News: I am not a hero
Story by Cpl. Johnny Merkley
PATROL BASE LAMBADAND, Afghanistan — Marines across the globe perform admirably in high stress, difficult situations on a daily basis.
While many of these Marines are rewarded with medals for their service and dedication, others feel satisfaction just knowing they did their job. In some cases, doing their job could mean keeping the Marines and sailors around them alive and well.
For U.S. Marine Cpl. Robert D. Knutson, a squad leader with Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, it meant making sure his best friend lived to see another day.
“I will never forget that day,” said Knutson, a native of Lebanon, Pa. “So far it is my most memorable Marine Corps experience.”
On Sep. 24, 2010, Knutson was on patrol in Helmand province’s Marjah district when his squad came under heavy enemy machine gun and small arms fire. In the midst of the battle, Knutson got word that his best friend, Cpl. Millard W. Westfall, a native of Opp, Ala., had been shot and was bleeding profusely.
Without hesitation, Knutson ran across an open field toward Westfall exposing himself multiple times to enemy gunfire. After finding his friend, Knutson quickly placed a tourniquet above the open wound on Westfall’s leg to stop the bleeding. After stabilizing Westfall and calling in a casualty evacuation, he provided security for almost an hour until the medevac helicopter arrived.
“I am no hero by any means,” said Knutson. “It’s just moments like that that make you appreciate what you still have.”
While Knutson was not awarded a medal for his gallantry, he believes the life of his best friend is the only reward he needs for his actions that day.
“It’s completely OK with me that I didn’t get anything for it,” said Knutson. “My friend is still alive, that’s the only thing I need.”
Knutson is currently leading his squad in counterinsurgency operations in neighboring Nawa district after being meritoriously promoted to corporal.
“He always does the right thing and sets the example,” said Sgt. William D. Galentine, a fellow squad leader with Weapons Company and native of Maryville, Tenn. “He genuinely cares about his Marines and always accomplishes the mission.”
Knutson uses his experiences in Marjah to teach the Marines in his squad. Though he hopes that none of them will be put in a similar situation, Knutson understands the possibility will always exist.
“When we first got to Nawa I would tell my guys to never get complacent because you never know what could happen,” said Knutson. “I think my Marines benefit from my experiences in Marjah and that’s why they’re learning so quickly.”
Although Knutson and his fellow Weapons Company Marines and sailors currently operate in the most hostile area in Nawa, not a single Marine under his charge has been wounded or killed in action since his promotion to squad leader.
“My squad has been in more firefights than anybody else here and nobody’s been hurt,” said Knutson. “I take a tremendous pride in that.”
Editor’s note: Second Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, is currently assigned to Regimental Combat Team 5, 1st Marine Division (Forward), which works in partnership with the Afghan National Security Forces and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to conduct counterinsurgency operations. The unit is dedicated to securing the Afghan people, defeating insurgent forces, and enabling the assumption of security responsibilities within its operations in order to support the expansion of stability, development and legitimate governance.