LOYAL, STUBBORN, AND DETERMINED
Lance Cpl. Brady Gustafson’s parents describe him as “reserved, loyal, stubborn and determined.” This was proven in action 21 July, 2008.
His loyalty to his fellow Marines, his stubborn nature when he refused medical treatment, and his determination under enemy fire as a machine gunner with Golf Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment earned him the Navy Cross, and a place among the ranks of such Marine Corps legends as Lewis ‘Chesty’ Puller, Daniel ‘Dan’ Daly and John Basilone.
He received this medal, the highest awarded by the Navy, for his deployment to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
MISSING HIS RIGHT LEG BELOW THE KNEE
The Navy Cross was pinned on his chest by Lt. Col. John M. Reed, the commanding officer of 2/7, and meritorious corporal chevrons to his collar by Maj. Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser and Sgt. Maj. Randall Carter, the commanding general and sergeant major of 1st Marine Division, at a ceremony held March 27 at Lance Cpl. Torrey L. Grey Field. The ceremony included speeches from his former and current commanding officers.
Gustafson accepted his medal at a perfect position of attention, despite missing his right leg below the knee. His entire battalion was in attendance as well as Marines from across the nation, former service members, family and friends.
According to eyewitness accounts, Gustafson’s actions that fateful day in July 2008 met and exceeded the requirements for a Navy Cross.
IN THE LEAD VEHICLE WHEN THINGS GOT UGLY
On 21 July, Gustafson was manning the turret of the lead vehicle, a mine-resistant ambush protected (MRAP) vehicle, during a four-vehicle mounted patrol riding through the streets of Shewan, Afghanistan. That’s when things got ugly.
The patrol came under heavy fire from machine guns as well as shoulder-fired antitank (RPG) rockets from hidden insurgent positions. One of the RPG rockets hit Gustafson’s MRAP, piercing its armor, rendering the driver unconscious and partially amputating Gustafson’s right leg.
FIRED 600 ROUNDS WITH A MISSING LEG
Despite his injuries, Gustafson remained vigilant on his M240B machine gun, locating and accurately firing on several insurgent positions, some as close as 20 meters from the vehicle. He remained in the turret, reloading twice and firing over 600 rounds, while Lance Cpl. Cody Comstock, an Anderson, Indiana native, applied a tourniquet to his leg.
After regaining consciousness, the driver, Cpl. Geoffrey Kamp, an Indianapolis native, put the MRAP vehicle in reverse and pushed the disabled vehicle behind them out of the kill zone.
Not until both vehicles were safe from the heavy insurgent fire and all the Marines had evacuated the burning vehicle did Gustafson allow himself to be removed from the turret for medical treatment.
“I GUESS THE ADRENALINE KEPT ME GOING”
“I knew I was hit,” he said. “I guess the adrenaline kept me going.” Gustafson humbly stressed that he was only doing his job, nothing more. “Anyone I served with would have done the same,” said the Eagan, Illinois native. “Heck, if it wasn’t for everyone else out there, I wouldn’t have made it.”
After being treated by corpsmen at the scene, he was transported to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany and then to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
“THE EXTRAORDINARY BECAME ORDINARY”
Upon regaining consciousness after surgery, 21-year-old Gustafson called his parents to tell them what happened. “We were worried about him,” said his mother, Kim Gustafson. “But we knew everything would work out; God does have a plan after all.”
During 2/7’s deployment to Afghanistan, “the extraordinary became ordinary,” said Lt. Col Richard Hall, 2/7’s commanding officer during the deployment. “I underestimated my Marines and I’m in awe of what they accomplished.”
Known as the hardest hit battalion in the Marine Corps during 2008, 2/7 lost over 20 Marines and sailors and sent over 80 home with serious injuries during their eight month deployment to Afghanistan.
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
Gustafson is now looking to the future and says he is looking forward to a bright future outside of the Marine Corps. “I took a lot of photos in Afghanistan,” said Gustafson. “I’m going to go to college in the fall and try and make a career out of it.”
Cpl. Brady Gustafson never faltered during the ambush and his heroism helped save the lives of all the Marines involved. The valor and courage displayed on the streets of Shewan that July day embodied the core values of the Marine Corps and set an example for all to emulate and be proud of.
“I’m proud of all the Marines,” said Kim. “There are so many heroes; I’m so lucky to count my son among one of them.”