MARINE OF THE WEEK // Under fire, carried an injured Marine 400 meters to safety
1st Lt. James Salka
1st Battalion, 9th Marines
Operation Enduring Freedom, Helmand Province, Afghanistan
Award: Bronze Star w/ Combat “V”
While deployed to Afghanistan in 2013, 1st Lt. Salka’s platoon was tasked with defending against insurgent weapon trafficking across a vast desert stretching more than 100 miles. In most cases, Salka’s unit was the only deterrence against insurgent attacks.
Eight weeks into their deployment, Salka’s platoon conducted a helicopter raid into the Taliban stronghold of Now Zad. Upon landing under fire, the Marines found themselves encircled by enemy fighters. During this fight, Salka exposed himself to enemy machine gun fire to resupply his Marines while working to identify a new extraction point.
During the extraction, Lance Cpl. Johnathan Burns fell to the ground from an injury sustained earlier in the fight. Salka picked him up without hesitation and ran a quarter mile to the helicopter, saving that Marine’s life.
1st Lt. Salka would spend another five months in Afghanistan conducting another 164 patrols, eventually being injured by a roadside bomb while on a mounted patrol.