Ronald Shurer II, Cited for Bravery in Afghanistan, Dies at 41


Staff Sergeant Ronald Shurer II, who received the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military decoration, for braving heavy gunfire to save lives in the war in Afghanistan, died on May 14 at a hospital in Washington. He was 41.

His wife, Miranda Shurer, said the cause was lung cancer, which was diagnosed three years ago.

Sergeant Shurer was a senior medic in the Army Special Forces on April 6, 2008, when 15 American troops and about 100 Afghan commandos set out on a mission in the Shok Valley, a remote, mountainous part of Nuristan Province in eastern Afghanistan.

According to an Army account, he and his team were making their way through the valley when they came under withering machine-gun and sniper fire and were attacked by rocket-propelled grenades. The troops had found cover when Sergeant Shurer heard a call for help from another team up ahead that had taken casualties and was pinned down. He then ran up a steep mountainside through heavy fire to reach them, stopping on the way to treat a wounded soldier.

Fighting his way across several hundred yards, killing Afghan insurgents along the way, he reached the hemmed-in team and treated four critically wounded U.S. soldiers and 10 wounded Afghan commandos, the Army said.

“It definitely felt that I was going to die,” Sergeant Shurer said in an account on the Army’s website in 2018. “I just said a prayer and asked that my wife and son would be OK with what was going to happen. Then I just went back to work to continually re-triage everyone.”

At one point another American sergeant was knocked to the ground when a sniper’s bullet struck his body armor. Sergeant Shurer rushed to his side. The sergeant was not hurt, but as he was being helped up another bullet struck his left arm and bounced off Sergeant Shurer’s helmet.

“It felt like I’d been hit in the head with a baseball bat,” he said.

He helped evacuate the wounded soldiers, and as they were lowered down the mountainside with slings improvised out of nylon webbing, he used his body to shield them from fire. After they were loaded into a helicopter, he went back up the mountain to continue to fight.

Ronald J. Shurer II was born on Dec. 7, 1978, in Fairbanks, Alaska. His mother and father served in the Air Force and were moved about the country. He lived in Illinois and Idaho before they were posted to McChord Air Force Base, south of Tacoma, Wash.

He attended Governor John R. Rogers High School in Puyallup, Wash., where he was on the swim team and took part in triathlons. He earned a bachelor’s degree in business economics from Washington State University and was studying for a master’s degree there before he enlisted a year after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. He met Miranda Lantzwere online as he was going through Special Forces training, and they married.

He was promoted to staff sergeant in 2006 and served in Afghanistan from November 2007 to May 2008. After his discharge, Sergeant Shurer worked for the Secret Service as a special agent in Phoenix before joining the service’s Counter Assault Team. He was assigned to the Special Operations Division in 2014.

Sergeant Shurer also received a Silver Star, a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star. President Trump upgraded his Silver Star to the Medal of Honor in a White House ceremony in 2018.

In addition to his wife, Sergeant Shurer’s survivors include two sons.

“I’m not a hero,” he said in 2018. “I just happened to be the medic there that day. The guys trusted me to help them, and I was going to do everything I could not to let them down.”

The New York Times contributed reporting.

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