CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- A unit commander here received the Bronze Star earlier this month for his stellar achievements in connection with his combat operations in Afghanistan.
Lt. Col. Jerome Lynes, commanding officer, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, received the award during a battalion formation following his unit's 85th birthday celebration.
Maj. Gen. John F. Sattler, commanding general, 2nd Marine Division, honored the commander by pinning the decoration on his uniform.
According to the citation, the Bridgewater, N.J., native received the award for his performance while deployed with 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) from November 2001 to March 2002.
The expeditionary unit was one of the first to reach the shores of Afghanistan during the ongoing Operation Enduring Freedom. Lynes commanded the MEU's ground combat element, Battalion Landing Team 3/6, and helped coordinate many of the ground offensives against Taliban and Al-Qaeda forces.
In the beginning stages, Lynes' Marines and sailors seized the Kandahar Airfield and facilitated a re-supply for forces there. Soon after, BLT 3/6 trekked nearly 300 miles northeast to Kabul, where the Marines secured what was then the former U.S. embassy - allowing it to reopen after 12 years.
Lynes' family accompanied him during the ceremony.
"If I could cut this (award) in 1,200 pieces I would. I didn't win this 'my sons,' you did. I am only wearing this because of your work," said an emotional Lynes to his battalion.
Lynes and the rest of the MEU were credited with setting new standards for expeditionary operations. Lynes said that despite extreme conditions with temperatures sometime reaching nighttime lows in the 20s, the BLT operated just as they trained to do.
"Anyone who thinks kids today aren't tough haven't seen my Marines in the fighting holes at 2 a.m. They were cold but alert," he said.
Lynes explained that his Marines and Sailors ate Meals-Ready-to-Eat for nearly two months with no running water, electricity or bathrooms.
He said his Marines were some of the toughest he's seen, but also credited much of the unit's success on the war on terrorism to its detachments like Kilo Battery, 3rd Battalion, 10th Marines. He also thanked the 26th's West Coast counterpart - the 15th MEU.
The Bronze Star is awarded for heroic or meritorious achievement of service not involving aerial flight in connection with operations against an opposing armed force. It is senior in precedence to the Purple Heart.