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Marine Ignores Battlefield Wound, Continues Pursuing Taliban Insurgents
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By U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Keith A. Milks 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit
FORWARD OPERATING BASE RIPLEY, Afghanistan, June 14, 2004 — To many of his fellow Marines in Company C, Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 6th Marines, Sgt. Anthony Viggiani is the ideal Marine.
In the eyes of subordinates and seniors alike, the Strongsville, Ohio, native embodies those qualities that make Marines special: dedication, professionalism, strength, commitment, strong morals, and bravery. Now they have an additional quality to add to that list -- tough as nails.
During a recent firefight with anti-coalition militia in south-central Afghanistan, Viggiani's actions further elevated him in the eyes of the rest of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable).
When a pair of Army AH-64 Apache attack helicopters spotted approximately 20 heavily-armed militia fighters fleeing into the hills during a cordon-and-knock operation in a nearby village, Co. C immediately pursued on foot. Leading his squad over a steep, rock-strewn mountain, Viggiani was at the head of the advance when they came under heavy enemy rifle fire.
"The rounds just started pouring in," he said later that day, "and we weren't really sure where they were coming from."
On the slope opposite the valley below him, approximately 100 meters away, Viggiani and his Marines watched as two other Marines, Cpl. Randy Wood and Lance Cpl. James Gould, were wounded by enemy rifle fire.
Aware that the fire was coming from the slope in front of him, Viggiani pressed forward cautiously when he and 1st Sgt. Ernest Hoopii came under concentrated fire themselves.
The 24-year-old Viggiani then found he was mere feet from the cave housing the enemy sniper still firing at Wood and Gould, who had since taken cover behind a too-small rock.
"I was able to look down a break in the rocks and saw a bit of cloth move, so I got off three or four shots and then dropped the [fragmentation grenade]," said Viggiani.
Combined with rifle and machine-gun fire from Wood and Gould's squad, the grenade explosion silenced the enemy position, which was later found to have housed three militia fighters.
Sometime during the fight, Viggiani was struck in the lower left leg by an enemy bullet, fired by fighters further up the valley. Seemingly unmindful of the wound, Viggiani continued to engage the enemy with rifle fire until the area was cleared and a total of four dead and one wounded enemy fighters were found.
Mere minutes after the fight, with typical Marine élan, Viggiani dismissed the wound that stained the front of his trouser leg a deep crimson.
"It stings a bit, but it's nothing," he said as he paused for a photograph in front of the cave he helped clear mere minutes after the fight.
Despite recommendations from his fellow Marines, Viggiani refused to leave his platoon and seek aid at the battalion landing team's mobile command post. With a small dressing and a few aspirin, Viggiani shouldered his rifle and trudged further into the rugged mountains in pursuit of Taliban and militia fighters.