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South Carolina native to receive Medal of Honor posthumously

Mon, 12/13/2021

Christopher CelizWASHINGTON, D.C. (whitehouse.gov) - On Thursday, December 16th, President Joseph R. Biden will award Sergeant First Class Christopher A. Celiz the Medal of Honor posthumously, for his acts of gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty while serving as the leader of a special operations unit comprised of partnered forces and members of the 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, on July 12, 2018, in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel in Afghanistan.

While deployed to Afghanistan, Sergeant First Class Celiz led an operation to clear an area of enemy forces and thereby disrupt future attacks against Afghan and allied forces. When a large enemy force attacked, Sergeant First Class Celiz voluntarily exposed himself to intense enemy machine gun and small arms fire to retrieve and employ a heavy weapon system, thereby allowing U.S. and partnered forces to regain the initiative, maneuver to a secure location and begin treatment of a critically wounded partnered force member.

As the medical evacuation helicopter arrived, it was immediately engaged by accurate and sustained enemy fire. Knowing how critical it was to quickly load the casualty, Sergeant First Class Celiz willingly exposed himself to heavy and effective enemy fire to direct and lead the evacuation.  Sergeant First Class Celiz made a conscious effort to ensure his body acted as a physical shield to his team carrying the casualty and the crew of the aircraft.  As the casualty was loaded and Sergeant First Class Celiz’ team returned to cover, he alone remained at the aircraft, returning a high volume of fire and constantly repositioning himself to act as a physical shield to the aircraft and its crew. 

Sergeant First Class Celiz then placed himself directly between the cockpit and the enemy, ensuring the aircraft was able to depart. As the helicopter lifted off, Sergeant First Class Celiz was hit by enemy fire.  Fully aware of his own injury, but understanding the peril to the aircraft from the intense enemy machine gun fire, Sergeant First Class Celiz motioned to the aircraft to depart rather than remain to load him. His selfless actions saved the life of the evacuated partnered force member and almost certainly prevented further casualties among other members of his team and the aircrew.  Sergeant First Class Celiz died of wounds he received in combat on July 12, 2018 in Paktia Province, Afghanistan. 

Sergeant First Class Christopher A. Celiz was born on January 12, 1986 in Summerville, South Carolina. He graduated high school on May 23, 2004 and enlisted in the U.S. Army on September 9, 2006, where he was first assigned to Company E, 2nd Battalion, 7th Calvary Regiment, 1st Calvary Division, Fort Hood, Texas. In 2013, Sergeant First Class Celiz was assigned to Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment and deployed to Afghanistan on several occasions with his unit.

His awards and decorations include the Joint Service Commendation Medal, Army Commendation Medal (2 OLC), Navy Commendation Medal, Joint Service Achievement Medal, Army Achievement Medals (4 OLC), Meritorious Unit Citation Medals (2), Afghanistan Campaign Medals with Campaign Star (3), Iraq Campaign Medals with Campaign Star (2), Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, and the NATO Medal, the Ranger Tab, the Sapper Tab, Combat Action Badge, Parachutist Badge and the Marksmanship Qualification Badge Expert-Rifle.

Celiz was posthumously awarded the Meritorious Service Medal, Bronze Star Medal, and the Purple Heart. (Source: U.S. Army Special Operations Command Public Affairs Office)