NY National Guardsmen Awarded Bronze Star for Heroic Rescue During Battle

Under heavy fire, six National Guardsmen rescued badly injured American soldiers from an intense ground battle in Afghanistan

Pride filled a hangar in Westhampton Beach as a team of airmen was awarded with one of the military's highest honors Thursday.

Six members of the New York Air National Guard, a unit known as the Guardian Angels, were handed the Bronze Star for valor.

Their performance during battle was "outstanding," said the unit's leader, Capt. Ronnie Maloney of Middle Island.

Two helicopters flew the unit into the middle of an intense ground battle in Kandahar, Afghanistan last December.

Taliban forces had ambushed an Army patrol, badly wounding three American soldiers and one Afghan.

Under heavy fire, the Guardian Angels treated the wounded, then carried them back to the helicopters for the flight out of danger.

"As a team, it was flawless," said Staff Sgt. Jim Dougherty of Rocky Point.

"I would reach back over my shoulder and they would put things in my hand that I hadn't even asked for."

Three of the wounded soldiers ultimately survived the attack. One, who had lost three limbs to a bomb blast, was the only fatality.

None of the Guardian Angels was hurt.

The others to be honored included Sgt. Erik Blom of Hampton Bays, Sgt. Anthony Yusup of Pennsylvania, Sgt. Matthew Zimmer of Westhampton and Sgt. Christopher Peterson of Commack.

The six guardsmen are all members of Long Island's famed 106th Air Rescue Wing, whose motto reads: "These things we do so that others may live."

The group of citizens soldiers has saved the lives of hundreds, from battlefields in the Middle East to the waters off Long Island.

Family members cheered after the bronze medals were pinned on the six airmen.

"So proud," said Bridgette Maloney of her husband.

"He's my hero," added Ronnie Maloney's sister, Kim Arza.

But the word "hero" is not something the airmen wanted to hear.

"You just do your job," Ronnie Maloney said.

"We were just lucky to get out of there."

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