PITTSBURG, Kan. —
It was a hell of a way to wake up.
Concentrated fire from rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, anti-aircraft machine guns, mortars and small arms ripped through the air at the complex in Afghanistan in which Staff Sgt. Clinton Romesha and his team had been sleeping in the early morning hours of Oct. 3, 2009.
An estimated 300 enemy fighters surrounded them.
Romesha’s actions in the hours that followed would earn him the highest award for valor in combat that can be given to members of the armed forces: the Medal of Honor. Most have been awarded posthumously. Romesha is among just 70 living recipients, and, at age 31, he is one of just four younger than 60.
He was honored Thursday in a ceremony at the Pittsburg State University Veterans Memorial, where an engraved paver honoring him will be installed alongside more than 3,000 other pavers. He also spent time speaking with students about leadership and service, and he will be on campus again Friday for two events.
Although Romesha has no direct connection to the university — he grew up in a small town in California — administrators thought his story was one from which students could learn.
“His story is one of valor, of leadership and most importantly self-sacrifice,” said PSU President Steve Scott during the ceremony.
“The same skills that served him so well in the military are now helping him improve operations, reduce risks and ultimately save lives: leadership, critical thinking, strategic planning, crisis management. These are the same skills that we work so hard to develop with our students at Pittsburg State.”
Pat Flynn, an assistant professor in PSU’s School of Construction who oversees the state’s first bachelor of science degree program in environmental and safety management, spearheaded the initiative to bring Romesha to campus.
The new program’s first three students will graduate in December.
Flynn said he believed they could learn much from Romesha, who after leaving the Army in 2011 became a field safety specialist with an oil field construction company in North Dakota.
“Not only does he have field experience to share, but he can also talk about leadership skills and crisis management in a very personal and important way,” Flynn said.
While on campus, Romesha spoke about those experiences with a class of environmental safety students and spent time with ROTC cadets in the Department of Military Science. He will be a guest tonight at the Gorilla Battalion spring awards ceremony.