CAMP GEIGER, N.C. -- CAMP GEIGER, N.C. – 1st Lt. Samuel C. Cunningham, Company H commander, School of Infantry [East], received a Bronze Star with combat distinguishing device June 22 for heroic achievement while in combat operations.
Cunningham served as an 81 mm Mortar Platoon commander and Combined Action Platoon commander with Weapons Company, 2d Battalion, 1st Marine Division in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, he received the medal for the time period between March 17 and May 13, 2004.
“This is a great honor for me,” said Col. Bradford G. Washabaugh, the commanding officer of SOI. “When we have quality leaders like this, we pass that quality down to other Marines.”
Cunningham’s valorous actions prevented an enemy platoon’s attempt to destroy a strategically important bridge on Main Supply Route Tampa while leading a 60-member team that was personally dispatched by the assistant division commander, according to Maj. Chris G. Dixon, the executive officer of 2d Battalion, 2d Marine Regiment.
“They were like the calvary coming to save the bridge,” said Dixon. “They came through heavy fire and fought the enemy off the bridge and then saved a special forces team who were pinned down.”
This was only one of Cunningham’s many exploits, which also included operations in Fallujah and Zaidan, Iraq, according to Dixon.
The Indiana, Penn., native supervised the firing of more than 200 rounds in support of troops in Al Fallujah and Zaidan. Cunningham conducted countless fire missions while his vantage point received sniper and small-arms fire, and contributed to the capture of four enemy mortar systems and numerous munitions, the destruction of two machinegun bunkers and more than 50 enemy eliminated.
Cunningham’s strong leadership, determination and discipline showed in his Marines in Iraq. Cunningham told a short story about the conduct of his men in Iraq. His platoon was going through a checkpoint and received enemy mortar fire, which wounded three Marines and blew out the tires on their humvee. His Marines immediately changed the humvee’s tires right where mortars had just fallen, after evacuating the wounded.
“That takes a lot nerve,” Cunningham said. “It shows the courage of the Marines I led.”
Although the Bronze Star is usually given out for a single act of heroism, Cunningham’s is a symbol for his dedication and hard work in Iraq.
“The Bronze Star with the combat V shows the character of this Marine not for a snapshot in time but for a three-month period,” Washabaugh said.