Had it not been for his team mates, SEAL Lt. Mark Donald believes, he would be dead and there would have been a massacre Oct. 25, 2003, in the mountains near Shkin, Afghanistan.
“None of us would have lived,” he said at a coffee shop in Arling ton, Va., recently. “And you would have heard about it.” And had it not been for the sen sitive mission he was conducting, the public would have known Don ald’s name much sooner than now. In April 2007, the SEAL medical specialist was awarded the Navy Cross, the service’s second-highest award for valor, by then-Navy Sec retary Donald Winter. But unlike the six other Navy recipients of the award since Sept. 11, 2001, his identity was kept secret.
Until now. Donald decided to come forward as he nears retire ment in October. He spoke to Navy Times about that day in 2003.
Two intense battles
Shkin, on the remote edge of Paktika province, shares a border with Pakistan’s notoriously hostile Waziristan.
Refusing to speak in detail, Don ald said the mission was ambushed, resulting in a hammer ing eight-hour firefight. He received a Purple Heart for his wounds from that battle.
“No one knew how big of a bees’ nest there was,” he said.
His citation, which is not classi fied but on which his name had been redacted, tells most of the story.
As part of a mounted convoy on a mission against al-Qaida and Tal iban in a location not specified as either Afghanistan or Pakistan, Donald and his team were ripped “with extremely heavy” small arms, machine gun and rocket-propelled grenade fire. “They were well armed and well-trained,” he said. “They were close enough that you could see them and smell them.” According to the citation, Donald got out of his truck shooting, pulled a wounded Afghan commander into cover behind the engine block, then pulled out a trapped, unnamed American.
“He covered the wounded with his own body while returning fire and providing care,” the citation reads. The fire was heavy enough at points to zip through his cloth ing and gear and hit his weapon.
Donald then went to treat wounded Afghans in the two lead trucks and rallied the remaining troops to “break the ambush.” Later the same day, a joint unit sweeping the area was attacked near Donald and his team.
Again, he sprang into action.
“Knowing personnel were grave ly wounded Lieutenant Donald without hesitation and with com plete disregard for his own safety ran 200 meters between opposing forces exposing him to withering and continuous heavy machine gun and small arms fire to render med ical treatment to two wounded per sonnel, one Afghan and one Ameri can,” the citation reads. “Still under intense enemy fire, wounded by shrapnel, ... he organized the surviving Afghan soldiers and led a 200 meter fighting withdrawal.”Navy Cross is nothing to sneeze at, but ...
Defense Department records do not show American personnel were lost Oct. 25, 2003, in Afghanistan. But CIA records do.
Not only has Donald’s Navy Cross been kept under wraps these years, but so was the Silver Star he was awarded for similar actions days later. “It was just a bad time in that area,” he said.
Like many of us have asked over the last few years, Galrahn last week repeated again, "Are There No Live People Worthy of the MOH?" I'm not saying LT Donald should have been nom'd - I don't have the details; but since the Chontosh questions, it has been a head-scratcher to me.
Perhaps this doesn't make the cut ... but it seems that no one wants living heroes anymore. Well, if nothing else; BZ LT Donald, I think it is safe to say that even if all you receive is a free beer, you honor those you served with.