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Alaska Air National Guard members awarded bronze stars

By Shannon Ballard 6:34 PM December 7, 2013

Four guardsmen honored for heroic acts of valor

ANCHORAGE- Four members of the Alaska Air National Guard’s 212th Rescue Squadron were recognized Saturday for their heroic actions in Afghanistan.

The guardsmen received the bronze star for acts of bravery. It’s one of the highest military honors, but the men are too modest to call themselves heroes.

Last September, Maj. Matthew Komatsu, Chief Master Sgt. Paul Barendregt and Master Sgt. Kyle Minshew put themselves in the line of fire. The Taliban attacked Camp Basiton with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades.

“I thought I was on the most secure base in Afghanistan and the next thing I know there’s people shooting at me,” Minshew said.

As bullets and grenades rained down, three of the guardsmen managed to save seven lives.

“What we did that night was go into a firefight because we figured people needed help,” Barendregt said.

More than the recognition, these men were honored to receive the medal alongside each other.

“The reason that we are receiving this is because we raised our hands and said, ‘send me,’” Komatsu said.

The fourth bronze star was awarded to Senior Airman Andrew Nichols. In 2011, Nichols and his teammate sprinted under live fire and carried a critically injured soldier to safety.

Nichols is credited for saving that soldier’s life.

All of these men survived while others did not. The lives lost are the ones they call the true heroes.

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