MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
Marines stood in a battalion formation. Senior officers stood in front, as a lone lance corporal stepped in front of them.
The boisterous voice of the battalion sergeant major bounced off the brick walls surrounding them as he read the citation. The citation told the story of a Marine’s heroic acts that saved the lives of those around him and had a direct impact on the Marine Corps’ success in Afghanistan.
Corporal Sean A. Warren, a squad leader with Weapons Company, Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, received the Bronze Star Medal with combat distinguishing device and a combat meritorious promotion during an awards ceremony aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., Jan. 14, 2011.
Warren received his award and promotion for actions while deployed to Afghanistan in 2010.
Warren, 21, is a lanky, soft-spoken Marine from Jacksonville, Fla., who has already served in two wars.
Warren joined the Marine Corps at the age of 17, which meant his parents had to sign a release for him to become a Marine because he was under the age of 18.
“My dad wanted me to go to college, but I was able to convince him,” said Warren. “There was a war going on so I figured it was my duty as an American.”
Warren joined the Marines and became an infantryman, more specifically, as a machine gunner.
On March 19, 2007, Warren left for Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., where he spent the next three months earning the title Marine.
“I thought it would be more physically challenging,” said Warren. “I didn’t expect all the mental challenges.”
Next, he attended the School of Infantry, East at Camp Geiger, N.C., where he learned the trade of a machine gunner.
Warren’s first unit was 2nd Bn., 2nd Marines, known as the Warlords, located near Camp Geiger, aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C.
In April of 2008, Warren went on his first deployment with 2nd Bn., 2nd Marines, to Iraq.
According to Warren, he didn't experience combat while in Al Anbar Province.
After returning from Iraq, Warren was excited to learn his next deployment would be to Afghanistan. Warren trained for months, and in October of 2009, he deployed to Garmsir District, Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
“Afghanistan was different,” said Warren. “Iraq has electricity; it’s a lot more built up. Where we were was just farmland. Though it seemed like the people in Afghanistan like us more.”
Unlike the relatively uneventful deployment to Iraq, the Warlords faced heavy fighting in their area of operations, especially in the southern portions.
Warren’s company occupied one of the small patrol bases in the south, and it was in that area where Warren demonstrated the heroic actions that earned him the Bronze Star Medal.
On March 24, 2010, Warren led his squad from Patrol Base Gorgak to an ambush position. After five hours, other squads began moving from PB Gorgak.
Enemy fighters began firing at the other squads. Unable to help from his current position, Warren maneuvered his squad and began receiving fire from an enemy machine-gun position.
Warren exposed himself to enemy fire and fired a 40mm grenade, instantly killing an enemy fighter. As they continued to move, an improvised explosive device injured another squad leader. Warren moved his squad to assist, personally destroying an enemy machine gun position, using another 40mm grenade, before reaching the injured Marine and providing aid.
“I was just running on instincts,” said Warren. “Nothing, in my mind, can prepare you for getting shot at. You just draw on people who have already been there.”
As they continued to take fire, Warren once again exposed himself to enemy fire, fired a light anti-armor weapon and destroyed another enemy position.
Shortly afterwards, another Marine was injured. Warren provided aid and carried the Marine to an evacuation site.
Over the course of the six-hour firefight, Warren personally destroyed three enemy positions and aided in two medical evacuations.
“He has all the potential in the world,” said 1st Lt. Christopher J. Hanafin, a Burlington, Mass., native, who was Warren’s platoon commander in Afghanistan. “He could be a squad leader in any platoon.”
The ever-humble Warren received an award for his actions. His award was presented by Brig. Gen. Christopher S. Owens, II Marine Expeditionary Force deputy commanding general.
“It’s kind of surreal,” said Warren. “I’ve seen plenty of other [Marines] do the same things, maybe even more. I think other guys deserve it just as much, if not more, than I do.”
Warren says he plans to reenlist and just wants to get back to Afghanistan.
“I just want to go back and see an end to all this,” said Warren. “Just hopefully we don’t have to lose anymore Marines.”
The Marines and sailors of the 22nd MEU are in the early stages of their pre-deployment training program, which is a series of progressively complex exercises designed to train and test the MEU's ability to operate as a cohesive and effective fighting force.
The 22nd MEU is a multi-mission capable force comprised of Aviation Combat Element, Marine Tilt Rotor Squadron 263 (Reinforced); Logistics Combat Element, Combat Logistics Battalion 22; Ground Combat Element, Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment; and its command element.
Marine Expeditionary Units are the Marine Corps' smallest permanent Marine Air-Ground Task Force, commanded by a colonel and comprised of approximately 2,200 Marines and sailors ready to provide immediate response in a hostile or crisis environment. While deployed, each MEU also incorporates two KC-130 aircraft available to support the unit's operations abroad.