BAKERSFIELD - A Medal of Honor recipient is in Bakersfield, hoping to inspire and help local veterans. Army Staff Sergeant Clinton Romesha will be the guest speaker at a dinner Tuesday night benefiting the non-profit California Veterans Assistance Foundation.
Romesha was serving in Afghanistan in 2009 when his platoon was outnumbered and attacked. When all odds were against him, Romesha chose to stand up. And, that's the message he wants veterans facing hard times to take away from the fundraiser.
On February 11th, President Obama awarded Staff Sergeant Romesha the Medal of Honor, with family and fellow troops watching.
"Just to take it all in with them and to have them there with me was a great moment," said Romesha.
But, that moment took unbelievable measures. On October 3rd, 2009, Romesha and 52 fellow fighters were stationed at Combat Outpost Keating settled deep in the mountains in Afghanistan. Early that morning, 400 Taliban enemies attacked. Romesha took control, taking out an enemy machine gun team while calling in for reinforcements. Injured himself, he helped the wounded and casualties to the aid station.
"I was just so fortunate enough to have such a great group of guys that were there with me when I asked for them to follow me to help do a counter assault, retake our ammo supply points so we could kick ammo back to guys so they could continue fighting and to recover the eight fallen heroes that gave their last full measure of devotion and to recover them. That's what it boiled down to," said Romesha.
It's still hard for him to think about the eight men he couldn't save in the twelve-hour gunfight, leaving Humvees riddled with bullets and the camp close to leveled. But, they won.
Lee'o Whisenant is Romesha's friend, colleague and a fellow veteran.
"Clint's as humble as he is. He's kind of a big deal," said Whisenant.
Whisenant fell on hard times and turned to the local Veterans Assistance Foundation for housing and help. Two years later, he got a job in the oil fields in North Dakota and met Romesha. He immediately thought about giving back to the C.V.F. with Romesha's help.
"We pulled up trucks one day and I was like, hey man, can you do me a favor? Do you think you can come to California and do a fundraiser with me? And,he said yeah," said Whisenant.
Together, they hope to lift other veterans up, showing that even when things seem impossible, there's a way.
"It's the challenge that faces us and are you going to sit there and let opportunity pass you, or are you going to stand up when you are faced with that adversity? It's in all of us to be able to have that. But, what are you going to do when it's your time?," said Romesha.
If you would like to attend Tuesday night's dinner and fundraiser, it's at 6 p.m. at the Doubletree Hotel. Call 695-3626 to purchase tickets or for more information.
Romesha also has a Purple Heart, Bronze Star and a Combat Action Badge.