Below is a excerpt of American Valor's interview with Michael Durant whose life was saved by Medal of Honor recipients Gary Gordon and Randall Shughart.
Mogadishu is a typical third world town, from a distance, it looked like at one point in time it might have been a beautiful place you might even go on vacation. But uh, civil war and economic decay over time caused it to just totally self-destruct. I mean everything there was destroyed.
I was flight lead of the Ranger blocking force, which meant that I was the pilot in command of the lead helicopter for the force that carried the Rangers. I also did a lot of interface with the Delta Force guys, and that is actually where I first met Randy Shughart and Gary Gordon.
[Tom Matthews (commander of the First Battalion 160th, Special Operations Aviation): That day on the 3rd of October, our mission was to go in there to get those responsible for the deaths of the Pakistani United Nations Peacekeepers, read Mr. Adid and company.]
So the mission is moving along, basically like all the others until the worst possible contingency happens, and that is one of the Black Hawks over the target gets shot down.
Uh, that's when I came back into the picture. To replace Super 6-1.
We got hit by a rocket-propelled grenade, right below the tail rotor. From 70 feet, that's just you know, a devastating crash, once you hit the ground.
I had broken my femur in the crash, and crushed some vertebrae in my spine.
I had my personal weapon in the cockpit with me, reached down, picked it up and decided that I was just gonna fight it out right there from my seat. I couldn't get out.
So I had picked up my weapon and was preparing to defend the crash site when uh, Randy Shughart and Gary Gordon showed up on my side of the aircraft. I never saw where they came from, but they had to come from the rear, otherwise I would have seen them approach. And uh, it was a surreal feeling. I mean it was like this awful situation that you just realized your in is now suddenly over.
I mean these are two soldiers that you know from your element, Task Force Ranger, standing by your aircraft, they're surely part of a rescue force, and now they're just gonna load us up on a truck or another aircraft and get out of there, and we'll be at the hospital. Not knowing the circumstances that led them to that point. Not knowing they were the only two soldiers on the ground besides our crew. And uh, not knowing the predicament that we were really in.
So they got me out of the aircraft, laid me on the ground, put my weapon across my chest, and uh, the way I described their actions were professional and deliberate to the point that they looked like they were planning a parking lot. I mean they, they were, they didn't seem alarmed the situation that we were in. It was just focused on the task, doing what they needed to do to improve our situation, and get through it, get us rescued. Whatever it is they needed to do. Just moments after this, Gary Gordon is shot. I hear Gary say, damn, I'm hit. And what always struck me was the way he said it. I mean it was almost like he nicked himself with a knife. Just very matter-of-factly.
And apparently it was a mortal wound, and evidence of that was the fact that Randy Shughart came around and gave me Gary's weapon. Now obviously I'm increasingly concerned about our chances of survival. The only two soldiers I've seen, one's down, I'm out of ammunition, the Somalis appear to be getting more aggressive. Randy comes back around the aircraft, and he makes a radio call and then he just makes his way back around the nose of the helicopter to the other side, and I never see him again.
When it got ugly, you know, people were dying, and bullets were flying, and people were wondering whether or not they were gonna make it out alive. When you get in a situation like that, I think pretty much without exception, what I've heard described as a feeling of I'm not fighting for my country anymore, I'm not fighting for my paycheck, I'm not fighting for the flag, I'm fighting for the guy next to me. I'm fighting for my comrades. I'm gonna do whatever it takes so that we get out of this alive.
And uh, I've heard that said before, and that, that's what it boils down to. I mean when I went back in there, I went back in there because I knew the Rangers on the ground needed our help. When Randy and Gary came into my crash site they knew the chances were pretty good they wouldn't make it out alive, but they did it because they knew that if they didn't take action, we were gonna die. And that's why they did it.
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