PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – A Coraopolis Marine has been awarded the third-highest military decoration for valor.

Sgt. David M. Gerardi, a native of Coraopolis, was awarded the Silver Star for a June 6, 2011, engagement in Afghanistan as a reconnaissance Marine with 1st Platoon, Company B, 3d Reconnaissance Battalion, 2d Marine Division (Forward), II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward) Afghanistan.

There are nearly 7,000 flight miles between Afghanistan and Pennsylvania. However, for Sgt. Gerardi that distance is distilled into one incredibly brave day as the Silver Star was pinned to his chest by Maj. Gen. Mel Spiese.

“On his own initiative and despite intense enemy fire, he crossed open fire, swept terrain to a position behind a 2-and-a-half-foot stone wall,” Maj. Gen. Spiese said.

Suspended from an Old Glory red, white and blue ribbon, the Silver Star is surrounded by a laurel wreath with the words, “Gallantry In Action” on the reverse.

“It is an exceptionally rare occurrence, in particular in the Marine Corps,” Maj. Gen. Spiese said.

Gerardi, a reconnaissance Marine, was on patrol when the Taliban ambushed his platoon on four sides.

Making himself a target for rocket propelled grenade and machine gun fire, he held his position for five hours. The event happened 10 days after his 21st birthday.

“We were pinned down for sure. We were out in the open. He was there suppressing with his sniper rifle, which is no easy task,” Sgt. Hance Wilbert said.

Sgt. Wilbert remembers that June day clearly.

Three of Sgt. Gerardi’s buddies from the battlefield flew in from Okinawa to honor him.

His parents, Michael and Young Gerardi, say having him back is an answered prayer.

“I’ve been blessed the entire time I’ve been in the military. To serve with the best Marines, the best soldiers,” Sgt. Gerardi said.

The young Marine welled up with tears remembering two of his fallen brothers.

“I know the award talks about me a lot, but those guys did more to bring me home than I could ever do for them,” Sgt. Gerardi said.

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