A Navy chief who grew up in Bellingham has been awarded the Silver Star for saving two people during a battle in April 2019.
Matthew J. O’Connor received the medal on Thursday, Feb. 13, during an award presentation at Naval Base Point Loma in San Diego.
The Silver Star is the third-highest award for bravery in battle in the U.S. military.
“Adversity under fire doesn’t test one’s character, it reveals it. Chief O’Connor revealed that day that his character, choices and actions clearly warrant the recognition afforded by a Silver Star,” said Vice Adm. Scott Conn, commander of the U.S. Third Fleet, in a news release announcing the honor for O’Connor’s valor.
O’Connor is an explosive ordnance disposal technician. He attended Squalicum and Sehome high schools in Bellingham and enlisted in 2008.
Last year, O’Connor was deployed with a special operations task force in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, according to a Navy news release.
The release didn’t say where O’Connor was sent but a Navy Times story described Operation Inherent Resolve as an anti-Islamic State campaign in Iraq and Syria.
O’Connor received the Silver Star for his courage during a firefight that unfolded on the night of April 18 to April 19, according to the Navy Times.
That was when O’Connor and his team came under enemy fire — from eight fighters — after they maneuvered into a village held by the enemy and struck at a facility known for making improvised explosive devices, according to the release and the Navy Times.
O’Connor carried one wounded team member to cover and provided life-saving medical treatment.
He then went back to get a wounded U.S. linguist.
“After moving the linguist to safety and carrying his first teammate through enemy fire and difficult terrain to the casualty collection point, O’Connor returned to the target area, conducted post-assault procedures, and guided the remaining combined task force through terrain laden with improvised explosive devices,” the release states.
O’Connor said in a statement that he was honored to receive the Silver Star.
“However, I want people to know that it took a whole group of guys to ensure everyone returned safely. I was not the only one out there, and this is reflective of a team effort,” O’Connor said.
In 2017, he was assigned to the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 11 in Imperial Beach, California, according to the Navy Times.
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