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MARSOC Marine killed in Afghanistan to receive Navy Cross

Jun. 11, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
Gunnery Sgt. Jonathan Gifford
Gunnery Sgt. Jonathan Gifford ()
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A MARSOC gunnery sergeant who died leading an assault on insurgents in Afghanistan in 2012 will be awarded the military’s second-highest honor next week.

The family of Gunnery Sgt. Jonathan Gifford, of 2nd Marine Special Operations Battalion, out of Camp Lejeune, N.C., will receive his Navy Cross June 17 at a ceremony held at MARSOC headquarters aboard Lejeune.

Gifford, 34, of Palm Bay, Fla., had been a team chief with Special Operations Task Force West deployed to Bagdhis province, Afghanistan, at the time of the assault. During a morning patrol on July 29, 2012 near the town of Bala Bokan, he saw three of the Afghan special operations commandos he was advising hit by enemy small arms fire.

Immediately, he got behind the wheel of an all-terrain vehicle, roaring across 800 meters of ground unprotected to come to the aid of the wounded commandos. With the help of another Marine, he performed first aid on the Afghan soldiers and moved them to a landing zone so a helicopter could extract them for medical care. Then, he crossed back over the same open terrain to help the other Afghan commandos in the unit, who were now under enemy fire.

During the attack he led, he took out an insurgent who was firing from a window and climbed a building housing enemy fighters, dropping a grenade down the chimney. He kept pressing the attack until he fell mortally wounded by enemy machine gun fire, according to his medal citation.

A former force reconnaissance Marine, Gifford had completed nearly 15 years of service at the time of his death. He had been discharged from the Corps in July 2001, but donned the uniform again just over a year later as the war in Afghanistan was beginning, officials said.

He joined MARSOC in 2006, shortly after the unit was activated, working as chief instructor of the MARSOC advanced sniper course before becoming a team chief with 2nd MSOB.

He had deployed three times with Marine expeditionary units, and had service twice in Afghanistan and once in Iraq, earning two combat action ribbons and a Navy-Marine Corps Commendation Medal with combat V device prior to his heroic final fight. Gifford had been a month from the end of his final deployment at the time of his death.

Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. John “Jay” Paxton will present the award to the fallen Marine’s family.

Gifford was one of two Marines killed that day in Bagdhis. Gunnery Sgt. Daniel Price, 27, of Holland, Mich., also a MARSOC operator, was killed alongside Gifford, felled by the same volleys of enemy machine gun fire.

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