Specialist Wesley Braswell receives the Bronze Star with Valor and the Combat Medic Badge from U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Albany, for risking his life and saving three soldiers during the Iraq War in 2006. Braswell also led his convoy back to the base after the unit’s maps were destroyed by fire.
ALBANY, Ga. -- Specialist Wesley Braswell of Albany has been awarded the prestigious Bronze Star with Valor and the Combat Medic Badge in appreciation of his bravery and service during the Iraq War.
Acting on his on initiative, Brasell saved the lives of three wounded soldiers in a burning vehicle, deterred "a suspected enemy vehicle" from attacking and led the convoy he was with to base when all the maps had been destroyed. Both medals were presented during a brief ceremony Monday U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop at his Albany office.
In his formal address to Braswell's family and friends, Bishop acknowledged the nearly six years it had taken Braswell to receive the medals themselves, even though he had previously received the certificates, bestowing the official honors. As the medals were presented, Bishop called them "rightfully earned and greatly deserved.".
Bishop referred to an earlier statement by Braswell, in which Braswell denied his hero status.
"I and the nearly 700,000 people in Georgia's 2nd District respectfully disagree with you. Sir, you are a patriot and a hero," Bishop said.
"I'd like to thank God for letting me be here today and talk to you," Braswell said after he received the medals. "I'm blessed to be here and accept this award. My heart is still with those soldiers who are serving their country. I didn't really know the guys who were on that mission, but they had that uniform on so it was 'I know you and I'm coming to get you.'"
According to Bishop's presentation, on January 12, 2006, during a mission in North Iraq, the lead vehicle in Braswell's convoy was exploded by an improvised explosive device, and began to burn, trapping three fellow servicemen inside. With little concern for his personal safety, Braswell, in the second vehicle, was able to rescue the solders.
While the vehicle was burning, the convoy was approached by a suspected enemy vehicle. While most of the weapons in the convoy had been destroyed in the burned vehicle, Braswell was still in possession of his. Firing his M-16 rifle at the approaching vehicle, he was able to deter the suspected enemy and avoid possible injury or death to members of his group.
The fire had also burned all the maps, relied on by the convoy to return to their base. No one but Braswell was familiar with the area, and so the task of directing his fellow soldiers fell to him.
"I had been there before," Braswell said, "On the way back I just went by the landmarks and the position of the sun. That's how we got back to base. The truth is that during the time it was happening I didn't think I would make it. I was up about two or three days after that -- just shaking."
Braswell's uncle, Umar Aquil, believes the medals are "little and late," because Braswell served in the Georgia National Guard rather than the "regular army."
"In the first place, according to the guidelines, it should have been a Silver Star or even the Medal of Honor," Aquil said, "and at first it wasn't even what is now."
Aquil said that before the award was "upgraded" to include "With Valor," it had been a simple Bronze Star.
"Do you know how they gave it to him?" Aquil asked. "He was playing basketball in the gym at Fort Stewart when a courier came up and handed him a big envelope. That was it."
Aguil and Braswell's father, Walter Braswell, believe Wesley Braswell should have received "at least" a Silver Star during a larger ceremony held at a military installation.