Ambassador Delattre Bestows Six American Soldiers with the Croix de la Valeur Militaire
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to thank every one of you for being here tonight for this award ceremony of the French “croix de la valeur militaire” to six exceptionnal American Special forces soldiers.
It is a privilege for me to welcome them tonight to the residence with their family and friends who have come with them to show their support and admiration.
I would also like to recognize in particular the presence of General Martin E. Dempsey, Chief of Staff of the United States Army; - it’s a great honor to welcome you this evening; Admiral Eric T. Olson, Commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command – who has come especially from his headquarters in Tampa to join us tonight;
Lieutenant General John Mulholland, Commanding General of the US Army Special Operations Forces, as well as Lieutenant General Richard Zahner, Deputy Chief of Staff of the Army for G-2 and Major General Timothy Kadavy, Deputy Director of the Army National Guard.
Your presence honors us all and is a tribute to all the soldiers fighting in Afghanistan and in other countries for the values we all cherish.
It is also testimony of the excellent relations the U.S and French Armed Forces have developed in recent years in particular.
I am deeply honored to be hosting this award ceremony to pay tribute to six most outstanding American soldiers from the United States Army and the Army National Guard who distinguished themselves while fighting the Talibans and Al Qaeda elements in Afghanistan.
Through their outstanding bravery and engagement in combat, they fought at the risk of their own lives to assist French soldiers – their brothers-in-arms - who experienced a barrage of fire from the enemy.
Indeed, our French soldiers, over 4,000 of them, have been fighting alongside American soldiers since the very beginning of the war on terrorism, in the wake of 9/11.
Here I’d like to underline that the French organization “The French Will never forget”, devoted to promoting French-American friendship, is planning a major event in Paris on September 11 to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the tragedy of nine eleven. The event, that the Embassy is actively supporting, will feature a scale reproduction of both World Trade Center Towers on the Trocadero Esplanade, just in front of the Eiffel Tower.
I believe it will convey a very moving message of sympathy and friendship from France to America.
The French brigade – the La Fayette Task Force - deployed in Afghanistan, has been serving under the orders of an American commander without caveats, while our French Special Forces have been carrying on the fight side by side with the U.S. Special Forces in the most remote and forbidding areas of Afghanistan.
Their joint military actions have substantially contributed to the progress of the war on terrorism and helped to save the lives of allied comrades-in-arms.
This special brotherhood-in-arms between the American and the French Armed Forces which dates back to your Revolutionary War, has held strong and steady for the past 230 years.
And we should never forget that from Yorktown and Lafayette to the battlefields of World War I and the beaches of Normandy, our two countries have always stood shoulder to shoulder to defend and promote the values of freedom and democracy that we together gave the world more than 200 years ago. So our two countries owe each other their very existence as free Nations and we the French we will never forget the sacrifices of so many young Americans who came twice in France to fight and restore our freedom.
Tonight, we have gathered to recognize some of the best and most admired elements of the United States Armed Forces. Their deeds in Afghanistan were brought to the attention of France’s Defense Minister.
In recognition of the remarkable courage, dedication and camaraderie they exhibited under extremely perilous fighting conditions, the French Defense Minister has awarded them a very special distinction – the French “Croix de la Valeur Militaire”.
The “Croix de la Valeur Militaire” or French Cross of Military Valor, was created in 1956 by the French Government to reward extraordinary deeds of bravery carried out as part of security and law enforcement operations. This is the case for Major Richard Nessel, Captain Thomas Harper, Master Sergeant David Neumer, Staff Sergeant Ryan Ahern, Staff Sergeant Casey Roberts and Sergeant Ryan Meister.
Major Richard Nessel,
During a reconnaissance mission in the Uzbeen Valley, along with two French reinforced platoons and two Afghan platoons, you fell into an ambush set up by the Talibans in the Sper Kunday region.
You fought alongside your French counterparts as they were attacked from a short distance by the enemy. You commanded your platoon with bravery and you destroyed part of the enemy position by delivering all the air support available to you at that moment. You avoided friendly fire despite a difficult situation while collecting extremely valuable real-time intelligence on enemy movements.
Your superb command and combat qualities, as well as your coordinated action with your French counterpart, made it possible to avoid additional human losses. Your courage honors you, as well as your country. Your exemplary service deserves to be commended.
Captain Thomas Harper, Master Sergeant David Neumer, Staff Sergeant Ryan Ahern, Staff Sergeant Casey Roberts and Sergeant Ryan Meister.
As members of the U.S. Special Forces engaged in Afghanistan as part of Operation PAMIR from July to December 2009 within the Alpha Detachment, you demonstrated the highest military qualities and sense of duty.
You distinguished yourselves particularly on December 17, 2009, in the Uzbeen Valley, as part of Operation Septentrion, while supporting French elements of the Task Force Lafayette engaged in the mission.
Heliported to the ridges overlooking the villages of Hendor and Galosh, an insurgents’ nest, in order to establish a position designed to cover the major combat area, you were violently attacked twice.
Harassed by fire from automatic weapons, mortars and several rockets, you defended your position by returning fire over several hours with remarkable self control. Seriously wounded by 82 mm shells, you carried on the fight without interruption until you were medically evacuated at the end of the day.
Your outstanding conduct alongside the French Forces engaged in Afghanistan, your remarkable bravery in the face of danger in the combat zone, and your superb combatant qualities deserve to be commended.
Major Richard Nessel, Captain Thomas Harper, Master Sergeant David Neumer, Staff Sergeant Ryan Ahern, Staff Sergeant Casey Roberts and Sergeant Ryan Meister, in recognition of your determination, your courage and your professionalism, the French Minister of Defense has awarded you the Croix de la Valeur Militaire.
Au nom du Ministre de la Défense, nous vous décernons la Croix de la Valeur Militaire./.