CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. -- A U.S. Navy corpsman from Talofofo, Guam, received the Silver Star during a ceremony at Camp Pendleton, May 3.
Petty Officer 1st Class Benny Flores, a corpsman serving with Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company, was awarded the Silver Star for his actions on April 28, 2012, while serving with Regional Command Southwest providing medical support on a mission to Zaranj, Nimroz province, Afghanistan.
Zaranj is the capital of Nimroz and is considered to be a relatively modernized and prosperous city. It sits right beside the Iranian border and hadn’t seen a major insurgent attack for four years until that point.
Zaranj is a place so progressive that the United States does not have any military bases operating in Nimroz province. Because of that there are no armored vehicles to ride around in and service members must ride in Afghan Uniform Police pickup trucks.
It was Flores’s first trip to Zaranj and nothing was out of the ordinary, it was just another mission.
While driving down the highway, in a convoy in his truck was hit by a suicide bomber sending shrapnel into the vehicle. What Flores did after the initial shock of the attack would exemplify what corpsmen represent - accepting great personal risk to keep others alive.
“I had about five to ten seconds of blurriness because I was right next to the blast and right after that I saw my arm hit me and I knew what was going on and I went to go check on the other Marines that were wounded,” Flores said.
Riding in the bed of the truck, Flores was hit with shrapnel to his arms and neck. As he shed blood, flowed Flores grabbed his medical bag and started to aid the wounded Marines and AUP officer that had been driving.
After the initial blast, the convoy was ambushed by enemy gunfire. Flores ran through incoming rounds as the Marines laid down covering fire. He would risk his life a total of four times to help save the Marines and AUP officer wounded by the blast.
“My first thought after the blast was to go through the basic steps to take care of the Marines,” Flores said. “Check all the massive bleeding and their airways just the basic things they teach us. My main concern was just making sure they were all okay and that nothing too crazy or too serious had happened to them.”
Master Sgt. Scott E. Pruitt was riding in the passenger seat and was in critical condition after the blast. Flores did everything in his power to stabilize him but his injuries were too serious and he succumbed to them. Because Flores’s selfless actions on that fateful day he was able to save the lives of multiple Marines and their Afghan partner.
“I wish we all came back,” Flores said. “I really truly wish we all came back unfortunately we didn’t. We lost one guy, Master Sgt. Scott Pruitt, and to this day he’s always in my thoughts and prayers. I really wish he were here, maybe not for the ceremony, but just to see his face and him being with his family, his two daughters that he left behind. Please keep him in your prayers.”
During the ceremony Maj. Gen. Charles M. Gurganus the commanding general of I Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward), congratulated Flores and expressed his pride in him.
“It’s a tremendous honor and privilege for me to have had an opportunity to participate in this ceremony today to recognize the selfless act of bravery that 'Doc' Flores executed,” Maj. Gen. Gurganus said. “I just couldn’t be prouder of anything that I have ever witnessed or been a part of. Wounded with a concussion running four times back out into an ongoing firefight without any hesitation at all. I don’t think Doc Flores got up that morning and thought today’s the day I’m going to be a hero. He saw what needed to be done and he acted and he acted with bravery and he acted without regard for his own life. It’s something pretty special to be able to serve with young guys who will lay down their life for one another. I couldn’t be any prouder of you than I am today. Marines don’t go to war without their weapons and Marines don’t go to war without their docs.”
Despite his heroic actions Flores is humble about receiving the award and feels he was just doing his job.
“I’m very humble and very thankful,” Flores said. “I wasn’t expecting it. It’s one of those things that you don’t expect but I’m very thankful for all the people that did the work and thought I deserved something.”