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Fallen Camp Pendleton Marine Awarded Silver Star

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More than two years after his death in Iraq, Marine Sgt. Jeffrey Kirk has been posthumously awarded a Silver Star. The nation's 3rd highest military award for valor was presented to his widow at Camp Pendleton yesterday. KPBS Radio's Andrea Hsu reports.

The award citation recognizes Sergeant Kirk for decisive leadership and unlimited courage in the face of great danger during a battle a month before his death. The 24 year old was a squad leader with the 3rd Battalion - Fifth Marines -- also known as the Dark Horse Battalion.

Kirk was leading twelve men through a house-clearing operation in Fallujah, when his troops came under repeat enemy fire. Kirk was injured but refused medical attention. He continued to lead his Marines, eventually overcoming the enemy. After accepting his award, Kirk's widow Carly thanked his comrades for coming out.

Carly: I know if he were alive to receive the Silver Star himself, nothing would have meant more to him than to accept in front of the men who knew him, and trained with him, and fought against the enemy with him.

Afterwards, Corporal Reynaldo Leal stood by a framed photo he took of his sergeant. In the photo, Kirk is wearing desert fatigues and a flack jacket. His rifle is by his side. But in his lap is a notebook - and in his hand, a pencil he's using to draw.

Leal: That's actually a minotaur. He drew a lot of stuff, a lot of guys came back and got tattoos of stuff he drew. Really good stuff.

Leal was with Sergeant Kirk the day he died -- in another house-clearing operation. A marine had been killed and the body lay on the second floor of a house.

Leal: We were all fighting our way up trying to retrieve that marine's body. And that's how Sergeant Kirk was killed - trying to find a way to retrieve this marine's body.

Sergeant Kirk is one of about 70 marines awarded the Silver Star since the start of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

For KPBS, I'm Andrea Hsu.

(Photo: Framed photo of Marine Sgt. Jeffrey Kirk was on display at the award ceremony. Andrea Hsu/KPBS ).

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