Puyallup vet receives Medal of Honor for saving team
Former Staff Sergeant Ronald J. Shurer II didn’t hesitate when he got the call that his wounded teammates were trapped on a hillside in Afghanistan.
Not even as the bullets of enemy fire flew past, dirt kicking up around him. Not even when the bullets grazed his arm, his helmet.
Shurer, a graduate of Rogers High School in Puyallup, just knew his teammates needed help, and that’s all that mattered.
“With all the training in me and the military, the work and preparation we put into missions, it’s definitely just something that’s engrained,” said the 39-year-old veteran.
Now, Shurer’s actions are being remembered 10 years later.
President Donald Trump will award Shurer with the Medal of Honor on Monday for the actions he took to aid his teammates on April 6, 2008, making Shurer the 11th living Army soldier to receive the Medal of Honor for actions in Afghanistan.
The Medal of Honor is the highest military decoration that may be awarded by the government to members of the Armed Forces who show gallantry and intrepidity while engaged in action against an enemy of the United States.
At a media roundtable interview on Sunday, Shurer recounted his memories of that day alongside three of his comrades who served with him in the 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne): Lt. Col. Kyle Walton, mission detachment commander, Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Williams, weapons sergeant, and retired Sgt. 1st Class Dillon Behr, communications sergeant.
“Many of us would not be sitting here today if not for the heroic and selfless acts that Ron demonstrated that day and continues to demonstrate,” Walton said.
The group was on a mission to “capture or kill high-value targets” in Shok Valley, Afghanistan, in support of the Operation Enduring Freedom, which followed the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
It was the attacks that drove Shurer to serve. He grew up in Puyallup, attending Rogers High School, where he was a member of the swim team and participated in other athletics. He graduated in 1997.
His parents both served in the Armed Forces and were stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. His grandfather and great-grandfather also served.
Shurer graduated with a degree in business economics from Washington State University in 2001, shortly before the attacks of Sept.11.
“We always thought a lot about Pearl Harbor, and then after the 9/11 attacks I had a sense of obligation to sign up and serve,” Shurer said.
Following in the steps of his family members, Shurer enrolled in the U.S. Army in 2002. He was assigned to the 3rd Special Forces Group in June 2006, and was deployed to Afghanistan from August 2006 to March 2007, and then again from October 2007 to May 2008.
On April 6, 2008, Shurer remembered being struck by the quiet of Shok Valley and the mountains — until the enemy fire began.
“It felt like everything just opened up around us,” Shurer said.
While engaged in machine gun, sniper and rocket-propelled grenades fire, part of Shurer’s team became trapped on a hillside.
Braving the enemy fire, Shurer went to help his comrades. For more than five hours, Shurer administered aid.
“I felt this calm come over me and thought I was going to pass away,” said Behr, who was shot in the hip during enemy fire. “And Ron slapped me across the face and said, ‘Wake up, you’re not going to die today.’”
When Shurer got the chance to evacuate three of his teammates, he took it, despite having to navigate a cliff and lower his teammates to safety using a nylon webbing.
Williams said he remembered Shurer shielding teammates from debris with his body.
“Ron epitomizes the value of our team, Green Berets everywhere, of the US Army, and of the American population and all of those things came together in that battle,” Williams said. “I’m proud that we’re all here today in part of of Ron’s efforts.”
Shurer called all three of them brothers.
“These guys up here on the panel with me, they’re family,” Shurer said Sunday. “If somebody needs help I’m not going to think about it.”
Shurer was awarded a Silver Star for his actions, but was told by the President on Sept. 4 that he would be awarded the Medal of Honor.
“I’m definitely very humbled to be receiving this honor,” Shurer said. “It’s an incredible recognition.”
The Medal of Honor ceremony will be shown via webcast live at noon on Monday.
Shurer retired from the army nine years ago and currently lives in Virginia with his wife and two children. He’s currently fighting a battle with Stage 4 lung cancer.