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Justin D. LeHew
Nickname The Hero of Nasiriyah[1]
Born 1970 (age 49–50)
Place of birth Columbus Grove, Ohio, U.S.
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Marine Corps
Rank Sergeant Major
Unit 3rd Marine Regiment
Battles/wars Iraq War
Operation Desert Storm
Awards Navy Cross
Legion of Merit
Bronze Star Medal with Valor device
Meritorious Service Medal

Justin D. LeHew (born 1970 in Columbus Grove, Ohio) is a United States Marine serving in the War on Terror. He was awarded the Navy Cross for his actions on 23 and 24 March 2003 during the initial 2003 invasion of Iraq. He was hand picked to spearhead the rescue operation and recovery of the U.S. Army's 507th Maintenance Company on 23 March and subsequently was called upon again to take part in the rescue operation of US Army Private Jessica Lynch on 1 April 2003. He is also a recipient of the Bronze Star W/V for his heroic actions from 5 to August 28, 2004 during the Battle of Najaf.[2][3]

Marine Corps careerEdit

Justin D. LeHew was born January 2, 1970 in Columbus Grove, Ohio and enlisted in the Marine Corps July 11, 1988. After graduating recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina, Private First Class LeHew reported to Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California for training as an Assault Amphibian Crewman.

Upon completion of school in January 1989, Private First Class LeHew received orders to report to Company A, 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina and deployed with Company A in the spring of 1989 to Okinawa before moving to H&S Company in the fall of the same year to deploy with UNITAS 31 throughout South America.

Upon returning from South America, Lance Corporal LeHew immediately deployed to Southwest Asia with the battalion in January 1991 and participated in Operation Desert Storm.

After returning to the states in July 1991, Corporal LeHew transferred to Company C for service as an Assault Amphibian Vehicle Crew Chief. He then deployed with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit as a Section Leader in April 1993 and participated in Operation Provide Promise and Operation Deny Flight in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

In January 1994, Sergeant LeHew received orders back to Camp Pendleton for duty as an instructor at the Assault Amphibian School.

From January 1994 to October 1996, Sergeant LeHew served in a variety of billets at the school ranging from Crew Chief, Class Commander, Platoon Sergeant and Classroom Instructor and was named Instructor of the Year for two consecutive years at the school. He also attended the Basic Vehicle Repairman Course during this time and received a secondary military occupational specialty as an AAV mechanic.

In October 1996, Sergeant LeHew graduated Drill Instructor School at MCRD San Diego and reported to Company G, 2nd Recruit Training Battalion, where he served as Drill Instructor, Senior Drill Instructor and Academics Instructor. During this period, Staff Sergeant LeHew was a two time Dan Daly award winner.

From January 2000 to October 2002, Gunnery Sergeant LeHew returned to Camp LeJeune for duty as a Platoon Sergeant with Company D, 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion.

In October 2002, Gunnery Sergeant LeHew transferred to Company A for service as Platoon Sergeant for 3rd platoon and deployed in January 2003 to Operation Iraqi Freedom with Regimental Combat Team 2 and Task Force Tarawa. On March 23, 2003, Gunnery Sergeant LeHew[4] was an Assault Amphibian Vehicle Platoon Sergeant who was leading an armored column into the city of Nasiriyah when he was called upon to rescue the remaining soldiers of the ill-fated US Army 507th Maintenance Company led by Captain Troy King who was ambushed just hours earlier. After rescuing the soldiers the attack continued into the streets of the city where during 4 vicious hours of house to house, street to street and close quarters urban combat he bolstered a defensive perimeter to repel numerous waves of Saddam Fedayeen attackers, directed tank and infantry fires, rescued or retrieved 7 more US Marines after their vehicle was destroyed by rocket propelled grenade fire and coordinated an air medical evacuation of all wounded and dead US troops during the fight for the Southern Bridge in the city. Gunnery Sergeant LeHew was also later involved in the rescue and recovery operation of US Army Private Jessica Lynch from the hospital in Nasiriya. During this battle, Gunnery Sergeant LeHew was credited with numerous kills utilizing the M2 .50 Cal HB Machine gun, the MK19 40mm Grenade Launcher and the M16 Service Rifle in close quarters combat as well as calmly calling in air strikes and Tank/Infantry fires to neutralize enemy targets in the midst of chaos.[5] Numerous articles have credited Gunnery Sergeant LeHew with evacuating 77 casualties, both US and Iraqi, during the first 48 hours of the battle, the most casualties in a single action during the wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq to date.[6][7] In an incredible show of determination and strength, it was also witnessed by multiple Marines that Gunnery Sergeant LeHew personally carried a "6'4", 240 lb severely wounded Marine Corporal to safety over a distance of 200 yards under a hailstorm of small arms, machine gun and rocket propelled grenade fire, saving the man's life.[8]

In June 2003, Gunnery Sergeant LeHew received orders to transfer once again back to Camp Pendleton for service with Company A, 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion as Company Operations Chief.

In January 2004, First Sergeant LeHew reported for duty as Company First Sergeant, Company C, 1st Battalion, 4th Marines (1/4) and immediately deployed in May 2004 with BLT 1/4 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom II. He distinguished himself in combat once again during the battle of Najaf from 5 to 28 August 2004 earning the Bronze Star with combat distinguishing device for his heroic actions against the Mahdi Army of Moqtada al-Sadr. He is most notably remembered by his men for purposely exposing himself on numerous occasions to draw enemy sniper fire away from them as to allow them to maneuver and neutralize the position in addition to personally treating and carrying a Marine out of the Wadi A Salaam cemetery in his arms with a sucking chest wound over 300 meters under fire, saving the mans life.[9]

First Sergeant LeHew transferred to 1st Reconnaissance Battalion upon return to CONUS and served as both Company A and Company D First Sergeant simultaneously for a two year period in addition to reactivating 1st Force Reconnaissance Company. Upon promotion to Sergeant Major in the fall of 2007, Sergeant Major LeHew was personally requested by the division to remain on as the Battalion Sergeant Major and deploy the Battalion once again to Iraq for combat operations. Sergeant Major LeHew transferred from the Battalion upon return to CONUS in March 2010 and was assigned to the Assault Amphibian School. Sergeant Major LeHew transferred from the Assault Amphibian School in April 2011 and is currently assigned as the Regimental Sergeant Major of the 3rd Marine Regiment in Kaneohe Bay Hawaii. In July 2013, Sergeant Major LeHew was selected to serve as the Training and Education Command (TECOM) Sergeant Major located at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia.[10]

In 2010, Justin D. LeHew was honored by the United States Marine Corps, being one of only a handful of selected Marines with an obstacle named in his honor at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina. "LeHew's Challenge" is an 8 ft high suspended log supported by two pedestals that is part of the famed 54 hour crucible event which culminates the basic training of a United States Marine. Every recruit, both male and female, hear from their drill instructors about the heroism displayed by then Gunnery Sergeant LeHew and the story is used to inspire Marine recruits to work together to overcome the obstacle and complete the task at hand.[11]

Justin D. LeHew was inducted into the Ohio Military Hall of Fame on 4 May 2012.[12]

Navy Cross citationEdit

The President of the United States
Takes Pleasure in Presenting
The Navy Cross
Justin D. Lehew
Gunnery Sergeant, United States Marine Corps

For Services as Set Forth in the Following Citation:


For extraordinary heroism as Amphibious Assault Platoon Sergeant, Company A, Task Force Tarawa, I Marine Expeditionary Force in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM on 23 and 24 March 2003. As Regimental Combat Team 2 attacked north towards An Nasiriyah, Iraq, lead elements of the Battalion came under heavy enemy fire. When the beleaguered United States Army 507th Maintenance Company convoy was spotted in the distance, Gunnery Sergeant Lehew and his crew were dispatched to rescue the soldiers. Under constant enemy fire, he led the rescue team to the soldiers. With total disregard for his own welfare, he assisted the evacuation effort of four soldiers, two of whom were critically wounded. While still receiving enemy fire, he climbed back into his vehicle and immediately began suppressing enemy infantry. During the subsequent company attack on the eastern bridge over the Euphrates River, Gunnery Sergeant Lehew continuously exposed himself to withering enemy fire during the three-hour urban firefight. His courageous battlefield presence inspired his Marines to fight a determined foe and allowed him to position his platoon's heavy machine guns to repel numerous waves of attackers. In the midst of the battle, an Amphibious Assault Vehicle was destroyed, killing or wounding all its occupants. Gunnery Sergeant Lehew immediately moved to recover the nine Marines. He again exposed himself to a barrage of fire as he worked for nearly an hour recovering casualties from the wreckage. By his outstanding display of decisive leadership, unlimited courage in the face of heavy enemy fire, and utmost devotion to duty, Gunnery Sergeant Lehew reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.

Military AwardsEdit

United States Navy Parachutist Badge
Navy Cross ribbon.svg Legion of Merit ribbon.svg 
Bronze Star ribbon.svg
Gold star
Meritorious Service ribbon.svg
Gold star
Navy and Marine Corps Achievement ribbon.svg
Gold star
Combat Action Ribbon.svg
US Navy Presidential Unit Citation Ribbon.png Joint Meritorious Unit Award ribbon.svg
Bronze star
Navy Unit Commendation ribbon.svg
Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation ribbon.svg
Silver star
Bronze star
Marine Corps Good Conduct ribbon.svg
Bronze star
National Defense Service Medal ribbon.svg
Bronze star
Southwest Asia Service ribbon.svg
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Iraq Campaign ribbon.svg
Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary ribbon.svg
Global War on Terrorism Service ribbon.svg Armed Forces Service Medal ribbon.svg Humanitarian Service ribbon.svg
Silver star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.svg
Marine Corps Drill Instructor Ribbon.svg NATO Medal Yugoslavia ribbon bar.svg Us sa-kwlib rib.png Us kw-kwlib rib.png
Navy and Marine Corps Parachutist Insignia
1st Row Navy Cross Legion of Merit Bronze Star w/ valor device Meritorious Service Medal w/ 1 award star
2nd Row Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal w/ 1 award star Combat Action Ribbon w/ 1 award star Navy Presidential Unit Citation Joint Meritorious Unit Award
3rd Row Navy Unit Commendation w/ 1 service star Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal w/ 6 service stars National Defense Service Medal w/ 1 service star
4th Row Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal Southwest Asia Service Medal w/ 1 campaign star Iraq Campaign Medal w/ 4 campaign stars Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal
5th Row Global War on Terrorism Service Medal Armed Forces Service Medal Humanitarian Service Medal Sea Service Deployment Ribbon w/ 7 service stars
6th Row Marine Corps Drill Instructor Ribbon NATO Medal for the former Yugoslavia Kuwait Liberation Medal (Saudi Arabia) Kuwait Liberation Medal (Kuwait)
Expert marksmanship badge for rifle (2nd award) Sharpshooter marksmanship badge for pistol

See alsoEdit


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