Staff Sgt. Anthony Viggiani
Viggiani, a 3rd Recruit Training Battalion drill instructor, was awarded the Navy Cross February 24 for his actions in Afghanistan on June 3, 2004.
Marines from the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) were conducting cordon-and-knock operations in a village when a pair of Army Apache helicopters spotted approximately 20-armed insurgents fleeing to the hills.
Charlie Company immediately pursued on foot.
“On that day, we were going on convoys and were receiving intelligence reports all day,” Viggiani said reflecting upon the day in Afghanistan. “It wasn’t any different from the other days at all.” Viggiani ventured into details as he remembered the exciting events. We saw about twenty insurgents with weapons going up the valley,” stated the Strongsville, Ohio native.
He knew there would be action and was just waiting for the “go” from his superiors. “We got the word to ‘go’ and I said ‘aye sir.’ First and third squad went to the right while second took the left,” Viggiani said demonstrating with his hands the route the infantrymen took.
“As we were moving up through the valley, third squad moved to the right flank while [first] squad moved straight ahead. From there we picked up and held position while the rest of the company caught up to our position.”
Viggiani then moved his second fire team to the left and first fire team to the right so that they would have interlocking fields of fire through the valley. “The second fire team started taking fire from the enemy insurgents, the fire team returned fire and ended the enemy insurgents’ firing.”
Everything suddenly calmed down and Viggiani told his first sergeant that he would move to check on his first fire team just to see how they were positioned and to make sure everything was all right. “I had finally got to my [fire team], but not even a minute later, the first sergeant was on the radio, telling me ‘Get down here, I need a [fragmentation grenade] I need a [fragmentation grenade] now!’”
Viggiani quickly rushed to the first sergeant.
Two Marines were injured approximately 100 meters away, on the slope opposite the valley Viggiani and his Marines were on.
“I had got to first sergeant and I was asking him ‘Where are they, where are they?’ He told me my second fire team was pinned down pretty hard, then pointed in the general direction of where the machine gun firing was coming from.” Viggiani pursued in the pointed direction down the mountain in search for his team and to neutralize the threat from the enemy.
“As I was moving down, I saw a hole, it wasn’t big. If you took of all of your gear maybe you could slip into it. I looked and I saw some fabric. I shot three rounds in the hole and something moved, and then I shot four more rounds and threw a grenade in the hole and pinned myself against a rock.”
What seemed like a hole to Viggiani was in reality a cave where three armed insurgents were firing upon his squad from. “I never knew the cave was right there, I didn’t know anything… I just knew I had to keep a promise I made to my boys,” Viggiani said affectionately, referring to his squad members as his boys. “I had promised to bring them all back home.”
Viggiani said his company commander called for a medical evacuation where two of his Marines were taken into medical care, but he denied his injured status. “I had blood on my leg, but I didn’t want to leave. I did not want to leave the other Marines,” he said when asked why he didn’t go to the battalion’s landing team command post. In the process, Viggiani was wounded by rifle fire from the adjacent enemy position, yet he continued to lead his Marines in the attack as stated in Viggiani’s citation.
After killing the three hidden insurgents, Viggiani continued with his squad and defeated the enemy by killing a total of 14 Anti-Coalition fighters. After the hectic day, Viggiani’s parents received a phone call later from one of his friends in the platoon.
“I didn’t want to tell [my mom] because I knew she would be upset,” Viggiani said. “But when I did call her, out of the five minutes I got to talk to her, three and a half were spent calming her down.”
A Parris Island drill instructor received the Navy Cross on Friday, the second-highest award in the Marine Corps.
But Staff Sgt. Anthony Viggiani’s parents didn’t know the details about the day almost two years ago that earned their son the award until Friday’s ceremony, when they received a sheet describing the events.
“We’re very proud of him,” said Mary Viggiani, his mother who was in the Marine Corps for two years. “He just doesn’t talk that much about it. He loves what he’s doing, but he’s very humble.”
FORWARD OPERATING BASE RIPLEY, Afghanistan, June 14, 2004 â€” To many of his fellow Marines in Company C, Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 6th Marines, Sgt. Anthony Viggiani is the ideal Marine.
In the eyes of subordinates and seniors alike, the Strongsville, Ohio, native embodies those qualities that make Marines special: dedication, professionalism, strength, commitment, strong morals, and bravery. Now they have an additional quality to add to that list — tough as nails.
During a recent firefight with anti-coalition militia in south-central Afghanistan, Viggiani’s actions further elevated him in the eyes of the rest of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable).
When a pair of Army AH-64 Apache attack helicopters spotted approximately 20 heavily-armed militia fighters fleeing into the hills during a cordon-and-knock operation in a nearby village, Co. C immediately pursued on foot. Leading his squad over a steep, rock-strewn mountain, Viggiani was at the head of the advance when they came under heavy enemy rifle fire.
“The rounds just started pouring in,” he said later that day, “and we weren’t really sure where they were coming from.”
On the slope opposite the valley below him, approximately 100 meters away, Viggiani and his Marines watched as two other Marines, Cpl. Randy Wood and Lance Cpl. James Gould, were wounded by enemy rifle fire.
Aware that the fire was coming from the slope in front of him, Viggiani pressed forward cautiously when he and 1st Sgt. Ernest Hoopii came under concentrated fire themselves.
The 24-year-old Viggiani then found he was mere feet from the cave housing the enemy sniper still firing at Wood and Gould, who had since taken cover behind a too-small rock.
“I was able to look down a break in the rocks and saw a bit of cloth move, so I got off three or four shots and then dropped the [fragmentation grenade],” said Viggiani.
Combined with rifle and machine-gun fire from Wood and Gould’s squad, the grenade explosion silenced the enemy position, which was later found to have housed three militia fighters.
Sometime during the fight, Viggiani was struck in the lower left leg by an enemy bullet, fired by fighters further up the valley. Seemingly unmindful of the wound, Viggiani continued to engage the enemy with rifle fire until the area was cleared and a total of four dead and one wounded enemy fighters were found.
Mere minutes after the fight, with typical Marine Ã©lan, Viggiani dismissed the wound that stained the front of his trouser leg a deep crimson.
“It stings a bit, but it’s nothing,” he said as he paused for a photograph in front of the cave he helped clear mere minutes after the fight.
Despite recommendations from his fellow Marines, Viggiani refused to leave his platoon and seek aid at the battalion landing team’s mobile command post. With a small dressing and a few aspirin, Viggiani shouldered his rifle and trudged further into the rugged mountains in pursuit of Taliban and militia fighters.
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