His squad had come under heavy fire – and was likely to face it again.
On June 22, 2012, Hospitalman Zackery Penner had risked life and limb to rush to care for a Marine shot during an patrol in Afghanistan with Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment. The Marine died due to the severity of his wound, a toll that hung heavy on the company.
On June 23, the squad was helping Afghan soldiers clear a compound when they came under sniper fire. Two men were hit: a Marine and an Afghan soldier. Insurgent machine guns roared.
What Penner did next would later earn distinction with the nation’s third highest award for valor.
The Silver Star citation, obtained by Navy Times, reports: “Hospitalman Penner unhesitatingly ran more than 100 meters across fire-swept terrain to reach the casualties. He established a casualty collection point behind a wall then moved in and out of the kill zone four times in order to retrieve the casualties and get them to cover. When the squad began receiving fire from the rear, Penner courageously shielded the casualties from the enemy fire with his own body until the evacuation aircraft arrived and then bravely exposed himself to enemy fire as he moved the casualties to the aircraft.”
Penner, now an HM3, is scheduled to receive the Silver Star at a March 19 ceremony in Pensacola, Fla.
Look for an exclusive interview with Penner in our upcoming issue of Navy Times, out on newsstands Monday.