Valor Friday.

| January 3, 2020

Mason’s back, thankfully. Pretty beat up today, so I’ll let the master tell the tale.

Mason:
Since I’m still working on the move, we’ll have to take a brief reprieve from the double Medal of Honor recipient series. Instead, I’ll highlight an exceptionally brave soldier of a modern conflict.

Mother’s Day, 2007. The men of 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, part of the US Army’s 1st Cavalry Division were in Samara, Iraq. Sgt Daniel Cowart of 1st Platoon, Delta Company, and his men were conducting routine weekly maintenance on their vehicles. This was in the early days of what came to be known as “The Surge” that saw more than 20,000 additional American forces deploy to Iraq.

One of Cowart’s sister platoons called in a request for a vehicle part. Cowart and his men decided it was easier to run the equipment over themselves than to work through coordinating a logistics convoy.

They headed out and after dropping the part off, Cowart and his men were returning to their base. Travelling along Route Tampa, they encountered a slow moving route clearance team. Route clearance is the, often slow, method by which a roadway is cleared of IEDs, a persistent and deadly threat in insurgent-active areas of Iraq.

Cowart’s platoon leader, Lieutenant Andrew Bacevich Jr., decided to set up a traffic control point as traffic backed up behind the route clearance team. Cowart was the ranking NCO on the ground. The men in Cowart’s truck had changed positions on this convoy, in an attempt to add some variety to what was supposedly a “routine” operation. Cowart was driving that day, having sent his loader up to man the gun. That put him on the ground for what was to come next.

The American servicemen were checking vehicles when Cowart’s attention was directed to a suspicious vehicle. It was a British-style car with right-hand drive that was far too clean compared to the other cars. Two military-aged males were the vehicle’s only occupants.

Confronting the car, the occupants initially refused to exit. Once challenged by the approaching Americans, the two men burst forth. One had a gun, the other didn’t. Cowart’s men immediately engaged the armed subject, who had begun shooting at two of the soldiers.

Cowart made the snap decision to engage the other man. Seeing he was unarmed, Cowart didn’t want to shoot him, so he ran forward, around the car and attempted to subdue him in hand-to-hand combat.

Tackling the man, Cowart had no conscious idea the man he was engaging was wearing a suicide vest, at least that he can remember. As soon as the two hit the ground, the insurgent activated his vest.

The blast from the explosion killed Lt Bacevich and cost Sergeant Cowart his left leg. The casualties would have been much worse if the enemy had been able to activate his bomb in the open. As it was, Cowart’s quick thinking and decisive action caused the ground and vehicle to capture much of the blast’s effects. Cowart said it goes black after that.

Cowart received the Silver Star for his actions that day. He remembers little about the incident other than he didn’t see a weapon or the vest but knew something needed to be done about the enemy soldier.

Cowart awoke in the hospital and was evacuated to convalesce back home at Fort Hood in Texas. In addition to the loss of his left leg, he sustained hearing loss in both ears and has nerve damage in his right leg.

Receiving 20 surgeries in 18 months, he was retired from the Army, but he found a good paying job and was an active member of his community. In 2015 he had an infection in his amputated left leg that caused him to lose another four inches of his femur. He’s now unable to use his prosthetics and is confined to a wheelchair most of the time, but he maintains a positive outlook. He’s said he’s determined to walk his daughters (twin girls now in their teens) down the aisle some day.

Christmastime 2018, Sgt Cowart receives a phone call from Sergeant Major of the Army Daniel Daly. Daly told him that his Silver Star had been part of a comprehensive review of combat decorations the Department of Defense was conducting. Upon review, the Army had (rightfully in this author’s opinion) decided that tackling a suicide vest wearing insurgent was worthy of a higher honor. Cowart’s Silver Star was to be upgraded to the Distinguished Service Cross, the second highest award for combat valor, behind only the Medal of Honor.

Cowart told army.mil that “[he] broke down a little bit. My first feeling was why me. I don’t deserve that.”

Despite his wife and family telling him he deserves every accolade and honor he receives, he, as is typical of exceptionally brave men and women, unable to celebrate the event because of the men he lost.

Again, telling army.mil, “There’s always that little bit of survivor’s guilt,” he said. “My Lieutenant didn’t make it. If my lieutenant would have lived then, maybe, but I’ll always feel like it is a little unfair.”

When they asked if he’d do it again he swiftly said, “Absolutely. I wouldn’t hesitate.”

Sgt Cowart was presented with his service cross on March 20th, 2019 at Fort Hood. More than 1,000 people attended. The ceremony included a mounted honor guard, cannon and rifle salutes, and was capped off by a flight of four Black Hawk helicopters flying over the parade grounds at low level.

 

Distinguished Service Cross
AWARDED FOR ACTIONS
DURING Global War on Terror
Service: Army
Battalion: 3d Battalion
Division: 1st Cavalry Division
GENERAL ORDERS:
CITATION:
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross to Sergeant Daniel E. Cowart, United States Army, for extraordinary heroism in action against the enemy while serving as a Team Leader in the 1st Platoon, Company D, 3d Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 3d Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, during combat operations in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM, on 13 May 2007, near Samarra, Iraq. During the conduct of a combat patrol along a main supply route, Sergeant Cowart’s platoon halted to conduct a traffic checkpoint. When the occupants of a stopped vehicle would not exit their vehicle, Sergeant Cowart and three of his comrades dismounted their vehicle and approached the stopped vehicle and took positions to engage with the occupants . While they were near the vehicle, the occupants burst from the vehicle, one wielding a rifle which he fired at two of the nearby Soldiers and the other wearing a suicide vest. As the rifle wielding insurgent was engaged by another Soldier, Sergeant Cowart maneuvered around the vehicle and engaged the suicide vest wearing insurgent in hand-to-hand combat, tackling the man hurling himself and the man away from the vehicle. Despite the confusion, the insurgent detonated his vest, thereby traumatically wounding sergeant Cowart. Due to his ability to discern the threat to his comrades and his utter disregard for his own safety, Sergeant Cowart was able to prevent further injury to his fellow Soldiers and nearby civilians. Sergeant Cowart’s actions are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, the 8th Cavalry Regiment, and the United States Army.

Hand Salute. Ready, Two!

Thanks Mason.

 

Category: Guest Post, Valor

Comments (4)

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  1. Roh-Dog says:

    Damn. Right in the feels.
    SGT Daniel Cowart is a fine example of bravery and selfless service in the heat of that moment.
    Thank you Sergeant.

  2. 5th/77th FA says:

    “…worthy of a higher honor.” You think? You damn Skippy!

    Gun Salute…Fire by the piece from right to left …PREPARE….COMMENCE FIRING!

    BZ SGT Daniel Cowart!

  3. Fyrfighter says:

    Awesome heroism n the part of Sgt. Cowart, though it is a perfect illustration of the ridiculous ROE / concerns about media an higher-ups that the Sgt would have to even consider such actions. The companion of the scum he tackled was actively shooting at US troops, that should have been all the justification needed to shot the other clown in the face, regardless if a weapon / vest was visible.
    Our heroic men and women deserve better than to have to think about how they might be hung out to dry before putting themselves in harms way.