Texan honored as hero, friend to the end
Submitted by: MCB Camp Pendleton
Story by: Computed Name: Sgt. Monroe F. Seigle
Story Identification #: 200584104338
MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif.(Aug. 4, 2005) -- When Lance Cpl. Aaron Austin was growing up in the heart of Texas, he would put up a fight when anyone messed with the people he considered his friends or family.
Similarly, when insurgents on a rooftop threatened the security of his fellow Marines in Iraq, the warm-hearted Texan threw caution to the wind and entered the line of fire — ultimately fighting to his death and distinction as a certifiable Marine Corps hero.
The hard-charging machine gunner from 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, was posthumously award- ed the Silver Star July 22 in Amarillo, Texas. The award was presented to the Marine’s father, Doug Austin, by Sgt. Justin Rettenberger, 53 Area guard chief for the 1st Marine Divis-ion. Rettenberger was present on April 26, 2004, during the firefight in which Austin gave his life. He helped carry him out of the firefight after he sustained his fatal wounds.
“I will always remember Austin as a hero,” Rettenberger said. “He is the poster boy of Marine hero. The sacrifice he made enabled the other Marines to go home.
“Even as he died, he told me not to worry about him and to keep shooting at the enemy.”
The day after Austin passed away, his hometown of Sun Ray, Texas, put all flags at half-mast in honor of the fallen Marine.
When his father was presented with the Silver Star — the military’s third-highest award for battlefield valor — 14 months later, the Veterans of Foreign Wars set up a color guard ceremony. Sgt. Maj. William Skiles initially planned to present the medal, but decided to pass the honor to Rettenberger.
“I was Lance Cpl. Austin’s first sergeant for eight months,” said Skiles, now the top enlistedman at Medium Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 267. “That Marine was a real motivator and he enjoyed life. I felt that it was appropriate for (Rettenberger) to be the one to hand that Marine’s father the Silver Star.”
Skiles said one of the best parts of the ceremony was seeing the mother and father get some closure after losing their son.
According to his award citation, based on battlefield accounts, Austin’s platoon secured and occupied two buildings in enemy-occupied territory. Austin positioned his machine-gun team on the rooftop of the northernmost building. The platoon bolstered its defense and searched for enemy personnel.
At around 11 a.m., a “numerically superior” enemy force attacked Austin’s position from three directions.
Approximately 4,000 rounds of enemy machine-gun and small-arms fire — plus no less than 30 rocket-propelled grenades — rained down on the platoon for 15 minutes, the citation said.
The enemy fighters assaulted to within 20 meters of Austin’s platoon, threw hand grenades and sprayed AK-47 fire, according to the account.
During the hailstorm, Austin discovered many of his comrades had been injured. He whisked them into the building to ensure their medical treatment, the citation said.
Next, he rallied able-bodied comrades: “We’ve got to get back upon the roof and get on that gun (240G machine gun),” he said, according to the award ciation.
Austin, along with other Marines in his company, rushed to the rooftop defensive position, braving small-arms and rocket- propelled grenade fire the whole way. Austin led the way. When he reached the rooftop, he withdrew a hand grenade from his fighting vest and prepared to throw it, according to the account.
He changed positions to get a better look, exposing himself to intense enemy machine-gun fire. Several enemy bullets struck Austin in the chest, the citation said.
Despite his wounds, Austin threw his hand grenade. The resulting explosion disjointed the enemy and allowed the platoon to regain the upper hand, the citation said.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Jason Duty, who now instructs corpsmen in Great Lakes, Ill., was the first to administer medical attention to the mortally wounded Marine.
“All I could do was bandage him up and get him to the hospital as fast as I could,” Duty said. “He died in the back of the vehicle we were in. It was hard as hell for me to watch him die, and I do not care what anyone says, he is a hero and one of the best Marines I have ever met.”
Although painful for Austin’s mother to have lost her son, she said she understands the sacrifice he made and why he made it.
“I will always remember his loyalty and zest for life,” De’on Miller said. “I am so proud of him. I can say, ‘Why can’t it have been someone else instead of my son,’ but I know that what my son did saved some lives; and he gave me the best 21 years of my life, so I will thank God every day for the ones that he gave me.”
Bro, check your sig line.
RIP Marine, Semper Fi.
Rest in peace, brother