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Northampton native Britt Slabinski receives Medal of Honor

  • Master Chief Special Warfare Operator Britt K. Slabinski stands with President Donald Trump during a Medal of Honor ceremony at the White House, Thursday. AP PHOTO

  • President Donald Trump walks with U.S. Navy Master Chief Special Warfare Operator Britt K. Slabinski to a ceremony where he was to award him with the Medal Of Honor during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday, May 24, 2018. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) Andrew Harnik

  • President Donald Trump awards the Medal of Honor to Master Chief Special Warfare Operator Britt K. Slabinski during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday. Slabinski, who grew up in Northampton, oversaw a daring 2002 assault and rescue mission on a snowy Afghanistan mountaintop and carried a seriously wounded teammate down a sheer cliff face. AP PHOTO

  • President Donald Trump awards the Medal of Honor to Master Chief Special Warfare Operator Britt K. Slabinski during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday, May 24, 2018. Slabinski oversaw a daring 2002 assault and rescue mission on a snowy Afghanistan mountaintop and carried a "seriously wounded teammate down a sheer cliff face" while leading "an arduous trek across one kilometer of precipitous terrain, through waist-deep snow while continuing to call... Andrew Harnik



Associated Press
Friday, May 25, 2018

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Thursday inducted a new member into “the world’s most exclusive club of heroes” by awarding a Medal of Honor to a Navy SEAL who led a daring assault and rescue mission on a snowy Afghanistan mountaintop in 2002.

Trump presented the nation’s most prestigious honor for selflessness on the battlefield to Master Chief Special Warfare Operator Britt K. Slabinski, a native of Northampton, Massachusetts. The president said Slabinski is a “special man, a truly brave person.”

“We pay tribute to Britt’s heroic service and we proudly present him with our nation’s highest military honor, and I would go so far as to say our nation’s highest honor,” Trump said at a White House ceremony. Several past Medal of Honor recipients attended the ceremony and were recognized by Trump.

“Today we induct a new name into the world’s most exclusive gathering of heroes, and that’s exactly what it is,” the president said.

Trump recounted how Slabinski risked his life by repeatedly exposing himself to “horrendous” fire from more heavily armed al-Qaida forces in March 2002 during the Battle of Takur Ghar while leading a reconnaissance task force in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Slabinski set out to rescue a teammate who was injured after falling out of their helicopter after it came under attack as it attempted to land on the mountaintop. The helicopter crash-landed in the valley below and Slabinski and the rest of the team decided to make a daring trip back up the mountain.

“The odds were not good. They were not in their favor, but Britt and his team didn’t even hesitate for a moment,” Trump said.

After forging ahead and exposing himself to an onslaught of enemy fire, Slabinski later carried the seriously wounded teammate down a sheer cliff face while leading a trek through waist-deep snow. He continued to battle al-Qaida until the mountaintop was secured and his team was extracted.

Drone footage obtained by The New York Times has shown evidence that Air Force Technical Sgt. John Chapman, who fought alongside Slabinski, may have been left behind after Slabinski ordered a retreat, only to continue fighting on alone before being killed. In a Fox News interview posted Thursday, however, Slabinski said his team did not leave anyone behind.

“It wasn’t what I experienced. It wasn’t what I saw,” he said of the claim that Chapman survived.

He also noted that seven people had died on the mission, and that just as many had been severely wounded.

“(Not) a day goes by that I’m not thinking of them,” he said.

Slabinski retired from the Navy in 2014 after more than 25 years of service. He said following the ceremony that the medal “belongs to so many others” and named the teammates “who followed me without hesitation.” Slabinski said the medal also belongs to seven Americans who died on the mountaintop.

“They gave all for us. This honor is truly theirs. They are the true heroes,” he said in a statement delivered on the White House driveway.

Growing up in Northampton, Slabinski received his Eagle Scout Award at the young age of 14. Even then, glimmers of his future could be seen.

In an article in the June 27, 1984, Daily Hampshire Gazette, Slabinski expressed his desire to enter the Navy SEALs.

“These guys are even tougher than the Green Berets,” he said. He also noted that he would need to get good grades and “a lot of muscle” to enter the SEALs.

The man who awarded Slabinski his Eagle Scout Award was then-Rep. William Nagle Jr., D-Northampton. Nagle, who knew Slabinski’s parents, said he remembers the ceremony, and the young Slabinski left a strong impression on him.

“Just an amazing young guy,” said Nagle, although he also noted, “I never thought he was going to get the Medal of Honor, obviously.

“I was proud of him then,” Nagle said. “I’m very proud of him now.”

He also said that Northampton should be proud of Slabinski receiving the Medal of Honor, and expressed a desire for the city to do something to honor him.

“What a beautiful thing,” he said. “Everybody in our city should be so proud of that.”

It also seems that Slabinski’s experience in the Boy Scouts stayed with him.

In his interview with Fox News, Slabinski talked about the Boy Scout oath going through his head during the battle

“On my honor I’ll do my best,” he said.

Gazette reporter Bera Dunau contributed to this story.