Magazine article Soldiers Magazine

Staff Sgt. John Wayne Walding

Magazine article Soldiers Magazine

Staff Sgt. John Wayne Walding

Article excerpt

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

BEING born on the fourth of July with a name like John Wayne, arguably few people could be called more American. But for this young Special Forces communications sergeant, the price of freedom was realized April 6, 2008, when he lost the lower half of his right leg to sniper fire during an operation in the Shok Valley of Afghanistan.

That day Walding, a native Texan, and his team ventured into territory previously untouched by coalition forces to capture several high-value targets. The mountain village where the insurgents were hiding had been used to stockpile weapons since the time of the Russian invasion in the 1980s.

With no roads leading into the valley, Operational Detachment-Alpha 3336, along with their Afghan commando counterparts, flew in by helicopter. Upon reaching the infiltration point, the team made a 10-foot jump out of the birds, as the pilots were unable to land. Many of them landed in a waist-deep, icy river, and with the temperatures already around 30 degrees Fahrenheit, the climate began to take its toll. In order to reach their target, the group made its way up a treacherous mountainside to the fortress-like village, which rested on a hill at about 10,000 feet.

All seemed quiet as they approached the compound. They knew the enemy was waiting for them, but were unable to tell where. When the lead element came to within a few hundred meters of the compound, they began to receive heavy fire from all directions. What ensued was a six-and-a-half-hour firefight, during which the team called in Air Force F-15s for danger-close air support 70 times. …

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