The Silver Star, the third highest military decoration for valor, was presented to a Ranger team sergeant Tuesday at Camp Rudder, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.
Maj. Gen. H.R. McMaster, commander of the Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, presented the award to Sgt. 1st Class Anthony L. Fuentes, who is assigned to the 6th Ranger Training Battalion, Airborne and the Ranger Training Brigade. The Ranger School is located at Fort Benning where soldiers endure 61 days of physical and mental challenges at three locations to become an elite infantryman.
Fuentes was recognized for his actions from Oct. 8 to Oct. 16, 2011, in eastern Afghanistan where he served with the 27th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division from Hawaii. The citation states that Fuentes' outpost was attacked by a large enemy force using rocket-propelled grenades, heavy machine guns, recoilless rifles, mortars and suicide bombers. He risked his life five times while evacuating casualties and defending his outpost from attack.
The 29-year-old said expectations are higher from him after receiving the honor.
"It feels rewarding and exciting just to know that you have to maintain a higher standard after this," he said Tuesday.
To continue the fight against the force, Fuentes said, his actions were just part of reflexes.
"You don't even think of it," the Ranger said of his actions. "Things just happen. The most amazing part of it is guys are right there behind you. When you are done, you say, 'That was stupid. I could have just been killed.' The guys right next to you are there with you."
Fuentes said he will remember the ceremony because it gave his father, Michael Anthony Fuentes, a chance to hear him talk about his grandfather who died during the conflict in Korea.
A 10-year veteran of the Army, Fuentes said he knew an award was in the works but didn't know what he would receive until a week ago.
"When I talk about it now, it makes me more proud of everything that everyone did out there," he said. "All the agencies came together."
Fuentes is a native of Jackson, Calif. In addition to Ranger School, his training includes Airborne School, Air Assault School, Reconnaissance Surveillance Leaders Course, Combat Diver Qualification Course and other specialized training.
Other than the Silver Star, he has received the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Achievement Medal for Valor, Army Commendation Medal and a series of other decorations.
Only the Distinguished Service Cross and the Medal of Honor are higher than the Silver Star.
Fuentes said he was assigned to the Ranger Training Brigade at Fort Benning for three years before he was reassigned to 25th Infantry Division in Hawaii.
He has been assigned to training at Camp Rudder for the last eight months.
"If I can do what I'm expected, I will stay as long as I can," he said of his military career.