About a year ago, Idaho was preparing for the first ever visit by a sitting Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. His staff had requested the names of wounded warriors in the area so that he could meet them and they could attend one of his speeches as his guests. They each needed to submit a bio.
One of the men who responded submitted an email providing little more than the names of his family and period of service. When prompted for more information, he added three sentences saying that in 2005 he was ambushed in Iraq and had two grenades thrown into his turret. The first took off his hand and the second shattered his jaw in four places.
A few days later Chris Tschida met Admiral Mullen.
Josh Callihan, a VA employee who had collected the biographies for the visit, was intrigued. A wounded warrior himself, Callihan contacted Chris to learn more. He found out that he had never been recognized for his actions, and – more importantly – that there was much more to the story than could be described in three sentences. Josh contacted Idaho State Representative Marv Hagedorn, a retired Navy CWO3 and told him the story.
Almost a year after the visit by CJCS, the Idaho Legislature introduced a bill to present a Joint Memorial to the Commander-in-Chief, asking that Chris be awarded the Medal of Honor.
Here is the Memorial.
WHEREAS, on May 15, 2005, Idaho native Army Sergeant Chris Tschida and the three crew members of his tank were patrolling route “Michigan” between Ramadi and Fallujah in the Al Anbar Province of Iraq while conducting operations under Operation Iraqi Freedom;
and WHEREAS, Sgt. Tschida, along with his loader, were standing watch in the gun turret, watching for enemy activity while the tank driver and a Lieutenant were inside the tank preparing for a mission later that night. The loader shifted his body and accidentally knocked his water bottle down inside the tank and while lowering himself inside the tank to pick up the water, an insurgent used the opportunity to attack by throwing two enemy grenades inside the tank;
and WHEREAS, Sgt. Tschida could hear the grenades fall in the tank and instantly found one, yelling “grenade!” to his crew members while retrieving one grenade to put into the tank’s breach to absorb the blast. In this process, the grenade exploded and amputated Sgt. Tschida’s left hand. Moments later the second grenade exploded inside the tank, severely wounding Sgt. Tschida and two of the other crew members;
and WHEREAS, still conscious, Sgt. Tschida began assessing the damage inside the tank, but was unable to see because of the smoke and fire caused by the grenade. Sgt. Tschida attempted to key the microphone on his radio to call for support and report the enemy attack when he noticed his left hand was missing. Sgt. Tschida wrapped the stump of his hand into his shirt and began checking the status of his tank and fellow soldiers. At first glance Sgt. Tschida saw his Lieutenant slumped over and unconscious with his head resting on the .50 caliber sight. The Lieutenant was bleeding heavily from his eye socket and appeared to be dead;
and WHEREAS, Sgt. Tschida then noticed his loader, hanging half-way out of the tank’s turret, missing both legs from the knees down. Sgt. Tschida shook his Lieutenant to see if he was alive, at which time the Lieutenant let out a gasp of air that confirmed he was not dead;
and WHEREAS, an evaluation of the tank also confirmed the ammunition bay had been busted open from the grenade blast and the tank ammunition was at risk of catching fire and exploding. Knowing he and his fellow soldiers were not safe inside the tank, Sgt. Tschida pulled himself out of the hatch and then began pulling his loader out of the tank. Once his loader was safely out of the tank, Sgt. Tschida began pulling his Lieutenant out of the commander’s hatch of the tank. Once both soldiers were safely out of the tank, Sgt. Tschida began administering first aid by tying a tourniquet on both of the loader’s legs and by stuffing a field bandage inside of the eye socket of the Lieutenant to stop the bleeding from his head;
and WHEREAS, while caring for both soldiers, Sgt. Tschida did a security check of his area. At this time an enemy insurgent, believed to be the one who attacked Sgt. Tschida’s tank, engaged Sgt. Tschida while he was administering first aid to his fellow soldiers. Sgt. Tschida was able to repel the enemy assault with his M9 service pistol, killing the hostile force;
and WHEREAS, knowing they were in imminent danger, Sgt. Tschida attempted to get the driver of the tank to respond to his commands, but the soldier was in shock and unresponsive. After beating on the hatch and pleading with the driver to respond, the driver opened the driver’s hatch and began receiving commands from Sgt. Tschida. At this time, Sgt. Tschida commanded the driver to return them and the tank with its munitions back to the nearest security gate to get help. Sgt. Tschida then shielded both soldiers with his body on the surface of the tank until they arrived at a safe location;
and WHEREAS, all four crew members, including Sgt. Tschida, survived the injuries they sustained on May 15, 2005, and the tank was returned and repaired for future use. To this day, Sgt. Chris Tschida has not received recognition or accolades for his heroism and steadfast leadership on May 15, 2005.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the members of the Second Regular Session of the Sixty-first Idaho Legislature, the House of Representatives and the Senate concurring therein, that we urge President Barack Obama, in the name of Congress, to award Retired Sergeant Chris Tschida the Medal of Honor for distinguishing himself through conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty, or the highest appropriate recognition.
Every day I am humbled by the heroes who live among us. The Joint Memorial serves as a testament to bravery, leadership in combat, and the quiet dignity of a man who fought through horrible wounds to return his team to safety.
And we know about it because of a three sentence email.