AUGUSTA – A Windsor man was cited Friday for his heroism under fire in Iraq as he became the first civilian contractor to receive the Medal for the Defense of Freedom.
U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe pinned the medal on Alan Johnston and praised his “courageous and valiant” actions after an insurgent attack on a military training base in Mosul, Iraq, on Aug. 7, 2004. Fourteen people were killed and hundreds were injured.
After an explosion, Johnston sounded an alarm that prevented additional injuries, said Snowe, R-Maine. After a second blast he gave medical assistance to victims, using parts of furniture and doors as stretchers to remove the wounded, and providing them with intravenous fluids, she said.
Injured himself, Johnston continued helping those wounded in the rocket and mortar blasts while exposing himself to enemy fire, Snowe told a small gathering as Johnston’s family looked on. Johnston suffered an injury to his left arm and some loss of vision, Snowe said.
“How Alan managed to perform these exceptional acts of valor and bravery with his life literally on the line is something many of us cannot begin to fathom,” Snowe said.
Participating in the ceremony were two of the military officials who were injured in the attack, Marine Gunnery Sgt. Bill Rosborough and Army Maj. Thomas Case. Both men have received a Bronze Medal and Purple Heart. Rosborough traveled from Camp Lejeune, N.C., and Case from Camp McCain, Miss., to attend the ceremony.
“This is quite a reunion here today,” remarked Snowe, who pinned the medal on Johnston’s dark blue suit.
Far better than the medal was seeing Rosborough and Case return home alive.
“That’s my award,” Johnston said.
Johnston, 46, said he felt that he did what “any normal, ordinary person would’ve done” under the circumstances.
“The real heroes are the men and women that don’t make it back alive,” he added.
The Defense of Freedom Medal was first issued by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on July 31 to
honor Defense Department civilians injured or killed as a result of the terrorist attack on the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.
The medal may also be awarded to non-Defense employees, such as contractors. Johnston, who was lead engineer for a firm that built medical clinics, is the first contract civilian employee to receive the medal, Snowe said.