MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A former Marine from Prior Lake had one of the most prestigious military honors pinned on his chest Tuesday in a patriotic ceremony at the Navy Operations Support Center in Minneapolis.
The military’s Silver Star is the fifth highest honor of all service medals and the most prestigious for battlefield heroics not specific to any one military branch.
Former Marine Cpl. Ethan Nagel was leading a group of Afghan soldiers in July of 2009 when the unit was ambushed by Taliban fighters.
On July 29, 2009, Nagel was with a unit of 18 Afghan and U.S. soldiers and Marines in one of the most dangerous regions of Afghanistan.
The combined unit was returning from a morning meeting with tribal elders from the region on a goodwill mission. On their return trip, they were walking in a dry riverbed in a reconnaissance to check for IUD’s or other Taliban threats.
“We knew it was coming, something, they were going to hit us, they were going to set up an ambush,” Nagel said.
Within seconds, the unit was hit by machine gun fire and mortars being shot from the surrounding hills. As Marine Cpt. Mike Buckley remembers, his unit was outnumbered by Taliban fighters three-to-one.
Then, when a Green Beret soldier Doug Vose was shot in the chest, Nagel gave up his protected position and rushed to his aid.
“They were coming at him from 20 yards away,” Buckley said. “Corporal Nagel was holding a chest dressing on the wounded soldier in defending position with a pistol in the other hand.”
Nagel held off the enemy advance, firing his 9 mm pistol while keeping pressure on Vose’s chest wound.
For his heroism on the battlefield, Nagel received the coveted Silver Star.
Marine Brig. Gen. James Hartsell, the commanding general of the 4th Marine Division, was on hand to present the honor.
After pinning the Silver Star on Nagel’s dress uniform, Hartsell said: “He was not going to leave that soldier and let the Taliban capture him. And that’s exactly what they were trying to do.”
But through all the congratulations of family and fellow Marines and sailors, the 26-year-old Prior Lake native says his comrades would have done the same for him.
“He was coming home either with me lying next to him or us bringing him back,” Nagel said.
As for that shining Silver Star now adorning the other medals on his chest, Nagel says he’d gladly give it up to have Voles back.
“Yes, he was a great guy and he deserves this more than me because he made the ultimate sacrifice,” Nagel said.
The wounded Special Forces soldier was airlifted from the battlefield but later died of his wound.
Nagel served three combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and was discharged from the Marines in November 2009.
He has since joined the Minnesota National Guard and is currently trying out for Bravo Company 3rd Battalion 20th Special Forces Group in North Carolina.