Nightly News   |  February 11, 2013

Despite injuries, Medal of Honor recipient led rescue mission

Pinned down by gunfire and hit by a rocket-propelled grenade, Staff Sgt. Clint Romesha kept moving forward, defending the indefensible. On Monday, President Obama presented him with the Medal of Honor while Romesha’s young son – unaware of his father’s heroics – looked on. NBC’s Jim Miklaszewski reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> an american hero was honored today at the white house . president obama awarded the medal of honor to retired army staff sergeant clinton romesha for his incredible bravery during one of the most fierce attacks in our nation's longest war . after today's emotional ceremony in the east room , there are now 80 living recipients of our nation's highest award for military valor. our report tonight from our pentagon correspondent, jim miklaszewski .

>> reporter: wedged deep into a valley surrounded by soaring mountains, combat outpost keating in eastern afghanistan was a death trap . for staff sergeant clint romesha, it was indefensible.

>> every which direction you looked, you were looking straight up at the mountain.

>> reporter: romesha and the other soldiers at cop keating were under constant attack. but in october 2009 , the taliban launched the most ferocious assault ever. and unleashed a deadly downpour of fire like shooting fish in a barrel.

>> 360 degrees, we were taking, you know, rfgs, machine gunfire, mortar fire was coming in. i mean, it was accurate. it was, you know, on target. it was pinning positions down.

>> reporter: the americans were vastly outnumbered, nearly 400 to 52. in the first hour, three u.s. soldiers were killed. others pinned down by gunfire. and with no regard for his own life, romesha led five others on a rescue mission .

>> it was going to be a knife fight , getting to where we were going.

>> reporter: romesha took out an enemy machine gun and then was blown off his feed by a rocket-p rocket-propelled grenade. romesha rallied a search party and plunged back into the fight.

>> we had so many guys we hadn't heard from in forever. my biggest concern was they were going to take bodies away. we weren't going to let that happen.

>> reporter: then the unthinkable. taliban fighters made it inside the wire and on to the base.

>> they think we're all dead. all right, guys, let's get them for this. let's show them we're still here and we're still kicking .

>> reporter: in the end, eight americans were killed. 22 wounded. but they all came home. romesha's 2-year-old son colin romped around the east room today, unaware of his dad's heroics. romesha fought back tears as president obama praised the fallen for their courage in defending the indefensible.

>> that's what these soldiers did for each other in sacrifice driven by pure love .

>> reporter: for romesha, the outcome was never in question.

>> you're not going to beat down that american spirit , that will to fight and win. we were going to win that day.

>> reporter: jim miklaszewski , nbc news, the pentagon.