Senior Airman Jason Cunningham
It is not just infantrymen and gunners who display bravery on the battlefield. Oftentimes, those in support roles, logisticians, medics, reconnaissance experts, display unbelievable courage as they are called on to help those on the frontlines. Their training prepares them to answer the call of duty, to help their fellow brothers-in-arms, no matter the cost even if that cost is the ultimate sacrifice, death.
Senior Airman Cunningham, a former sailor, became an Air Force pararescueman because he wanted to help others. As a combat medic, his job was often dangerous, but allowed him to help those most in need injured servicemen and women.
On March 4, 2002, Cunningham was the medic assigned to a quick reaction force headed for the Takur Ghar mountain in the Paktia province in Afghanistan. Their mission was to search for and rescue a SEAL who had been thrown from a helicopter during a confrontation with Taliban and al Qaeda forces.
Enemy forces were waiting for the expected search and rescue team to arrive. As Cunningham and his unit approached the mountain, al Qaeda fighters began shooting at their Chinook using RPGs. A direct hit ripped into the helicopter, forcing it to the ground. Members of the team sustained injuries on impact, but they had no time to stop and treat the wounded as the enemies began a heavy volley of fire toward them. Those not injured spread out and took cover, leaving Cunningham and another medic to treat the wounded in an exposed position.
Cunningham’s attention was focused on what he cared about most, the 10 wounded servicemen. With enemy bullets whizzing past, he ran through the line of fire three times to the burning helicopter to grab the wounded and move them to a safer location. Not even a shot through the small of his back stopped him from doing his job; he continued to treat the injured; some whose wounds were not as severe as his. As his condition worsened, he instructed the other medics on how to treat the injuries of his fellow servicemen. Cunningham’s injuries proved fatal, but his efforts saved the lives of the 10 seriously wounded Americans.
For his actions on “Robert’s Ridge,” Cunningham was posthumously awarded the Air Force Cross on Sept. 12, 2002, an award second only to the nation’s highest award, the Medal of Honor.
*My Side Note*
It should be noted what the motto for the Air Force Pararescue of which Cunningham was part of is:
SO THAT OTHERS MIGHT LIVE!
Senior Airman Cunningham truly fulfilled that motto.