By Cpl. Bruno J. Bego, 2nd Marine Logistics Group
Two explosive ordnance disposal technicians received a prestigious award for their actions in Afghanistan in support of International Security Assistance Force operations from April to September 2011.
Staff Sgt. David J. Dignan and Staff Sgt. James D. Whidden, both with EOD Company, 8th Engineer Support Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, were awarded the Bronze Star with a Combat Distinguishing Device during a ceremony aboard Camp Lejeune, N.C., Feb. 10.
“We are here to celebrate that these two guys are back home, safe,” said Col. Mark R. Hollahan, the 2nd MLG commanding officer, who presented the awards to the Marines. “I also want to give words of gratitude on behalf of [Brig. Gen. Michael G. Dana, the 2nd MLG commanding general].”
According to his citation, Dignan, who was deployed to Helmand province, Afghanistan, responded to a group of Marines and sailors from 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division who were not only held by an ambush, but also a road side bomb, which prevented them from moving to a better location.
Minutes after arriving, Dignan moved through the storm of bullet to clear the threat so the patrol could move out of the danger zone. Immediately after, continuing to expose himself to heavy enemy machine gun fire, Dignan set up an explosive breaching charge to help the unit enter a suspected enemy compound. He then helped clear the area along with members of the patrol he was aiding.
Whidden, who served in Helmand province as well, responded to a patrol, where troops found an IED inside a compound. His citation states that Whidden had to crawl on his hands and knees to enter the small structure, probing the ground as he advanced to find himself in the middle of a mind field. With complete disregard for his own safety, he proceeded to deactivate each one of the five devices.
During the process, Whidden encountered multiple anti-tamper switches, specifically designed to prevent him from disarming the bombs, which he managed to defuse anyway.
Nearing the end of the ceremony, Hollahan gave words of appreciation to the Marines who received the award and the other EOD Marines present. Afterwards, Hollahan dedicated a few words as a reminder of all the EOD technicians who have served before them.
“You guys do incredibly brave stuff [on your deployments], but it comes with a cost. We all know what the cost is,” Hollahan concluded. Let us never forget all those wounded warrior’s who are still paying the cost and the ones who paid the ultimate sacrifice.”