Staff Sgt. Bernard Coyne knew what would happen if he made one wrong move, but he couldn’t show his concern to those around him. It was essential that he stay calm and diffuse the improvised explosive device buried in front of him. It was the first of 10 he and his partner would disarm that day.
Coyne, an explosive ordnance disposal technician with Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron, was awarded the Spirit of Freedom Award for his actions in Afghanistan at the 2012 United Service Organization Salute to Freedom Gala Saturday in Raleigh, N.C. The Gala recognized six service members with ties to North Carolina.
Audricia D. McKinney, spokesperson of the USO of North Carolina, said the USO recognized Coyne because he represents the core values of the USO of North Carolina.
“Staff Sgt. Coyne received the Salute to Freedom award because of his dedication to service and his country,” McKinney said. “He repeatedly placed the safety of his fellow Marines first and foremost. Staff Sgt. Coyne has the maturity, judgment, skills and leadership above his peers.”
Coyne, a Bronze Star medal recipient, and teammate Staff Sgt. Jacob C. Hostetler diffused 10 IEDs within a 50-meter area in one day while Taliban insurgents moved into position for an attack. Without his teammate, Coyne said he doesn’t think he would have been able to do what he did.
“We were wiped out after clearing 10 IEDs,” said the Woonsocket, R.I., native. “If it had been just me, I may have gotten so tired I would have made a mistake.”
In fact, Coyne said he doesn’t feel like he has done anything different than any other EOD tech does every day. He said he is glad for the publicity this will garner, but not for him.
“I don’t care too much for being personally recognized,” Coyne said. “It’s good to see the EOD community get recognized.”
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Michael Gaydeski, the H&HS EOD officer in charge , said he spent time working in small quarters with Coyne on the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit in 2010. He said that Coyne is worthy of the recognition he has received.
“Staff Sgt. Coyne is an outstanding Marine,” Gaydeski said. “There’s no task he can’t accomplish. He looks out for Marines.”
Coyne said his respect for the USO goes back to his days in a war zone.
“I really appreciate everything the USO does,” Coyne said. “When you get off a hard patrol and haven’t changed your socks in two weeks, and then you get a package from the USO with fresh socks, it’s a game changer.”
Article by Lance Cpl. Paul E. Wyatt, Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point