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December 9, 2021 10:53 am
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Jewish Army Ranger Killed in Afghanistan to Receive Posthumous Medal of Honor for Heroic 2018 Rescue

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Celiz. Photo: US Army.

A Jewish soldier killed in Afghanistan while heroically supporting an evacuation mission it set to posthumously receive the Medal of Honor, America’s highest military award.

Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Celiz will be one of three soldiers to be so honored, the Washington Post reported, citing several current and former US officials. The medal could be awarded as early as Dec. 16.

Celiz served as a combat engineer with the 75th Ranger Regiment who placed himself between Taliban terrorists and an army helicopter that was evacuating a wounded soldier under fire on July 12, 2018.

“My aircraft would have been critically damaged if it weren’t for Chris, and we owed him our lives,” said Capt. Ben Krzeczowski, one of the helicopter pilots.

Two soldiers involved in the firefight, which occurred in the Logar Province of Afghanistan, recounted in a 2019 interview a fast-moving situation in which they both remained calm — at first barely realizing they were under fire.

Sgt. Emmanuel Bynum told the Clarksville Leaf-Chronicle of the the moment when Celiz was mortally wounded by gunfire, saying, “I saw (a soldier) start running, and then he fell to the ground. As we were taking off, it clicked that he’d been shot.”

Although the helicopter had already taken off, the pilot brought it down again to evacuate Celiz, which they did successfully. Unfortunately, Celiz did not survive his wounds.

“It made us realize why we were there. I think about him a lot, and we all wear this wristband and a T-shirt we had made in his honor,” Sgt. Armando Yanez told the outlet.

After the death of the Summerville, Georgia native, Savannah Jewish groups remembered Celiz as a “man who ‘led from the front’; he was the first one in, worried about the welfare of his troops.”

Celiz has already received the Meritorious Service Medal, the Bronze Star Medal, and the Purple Heart.

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