41 Year Old Medal of Honor Recipient was Laid to Rest at Arlington

Medal of Honor recipient and former Army Staff Sgt. Ronald Shurer passed away in May 2020 at the age of 41. He was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery.

Shurer received the Medal of Honor for his actions in treating wounded soldiers while braving “withering enemy fire.” He was presented the award by President Donald Trump on October 1, 2018, in a ceremony in the East Room of the White House.

Shurer was originally scheduled to receive the Silver Star for his actions but a military-wide medals review led to the upgrade.

The Battle of Shok Valley occurred on April 6, 2008. Two Special Forces detachments set out to attack a mountain fortress in the Shok Valley along with over 100 Afghan commandos. The mission was to kill or capture Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. He was the leader of Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin – a militia group that had taken control of the valley decades earlier.

Members of Operational Detachment Alpha 3336, 3rd Special Forces Group in the remote Shok Valley of Afghanistan.
Members of Operational Detachment Alpha 3336, 3rd Special Forces Group in the remote Shok Valley of Afghanistan.

A surprise attack was planned but was scrapped when a suitable landing spot could not be located. The commandos were dropped in a nearby river and had to climb to the castle from there. This gave the militia time to prepare an ambush from higher ground.

It wasn’t long before the Special Forces units found themselves surrounded and being fired on from all directions.

Ronald Shurer
Ronald Shurer

Everyone on the team was injured in the fighting. The interpreter was killed almost immediately when the shooting began. With reports of reinforcements arriving for the insurgents, the team knew they needed to retreat.

The team then retreated back down the mountain still under enemy fire. They managed to hold the extraction zone until they could be evacuated by helicopter.

In the end, two team members were killed and nine received serious wounds. It is estimated that 100 of the enemy fighters were killed in the battle.

In an interview about the actions that led to him receiving the Medal of Honor, Shurer spent more talking about his team members than himself.

At his funeral, his colleagues spoke about his selfless giving. During the battle at Shok Valley, Sgt. Maj. Matt Williams said he saw Shurer repeatedly expose himself to enemy fire in order to treat wounded soldiers. He lowered several down the hill, using his own body to shield them from fire. A bullet passed through his helmet and lodged in his arm while he did this.

U.S. Army Master Sgt. Matthew O. Williams also received the Medal of Honor from his actions during the battle.
U.S. Army Master Sgt. Matthew O. Williams also received the Medal of Honor from his actions during the battle.

Once Shurer had tended to the wounded, he “regained control of his commando squad and rejoined the fight,” according to the citation he received for the Medal of Honor.

Shurer left the military in 2009 and joined the Secret Service. He eventually became part of the counter-assault team assigned to protect the president at the White House.

In 2017, Shurer was diagnosed with lung cancer. He continued to report for work at the White House when his treatments allowed.

Shurer in Afghanistan around 2006.
Shurer in Afghanistan around 2006.

His priest, Father Bob Cilinski, was invited to the ceremony when Shurer received the Medal of Honor. He said that he had known Shurer for a couple of years before that and had never heard about the battle. He said that he asked Shurer how he found the strength to do what he did in that moment. Shurer replied that he prayed, “Dear God, watch over Miranda (his wife) and my family and give me the strength to help others.”

According to his wife and all who knew him, he lived exactly that way – helping others before thinking of himself.

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Secret Service Director James Murray said that Shurer dedicated his life to his country and that he was a valued member of the Secret Service. He said that Shurer’s “impact, memory, and legacy will live with us forever.”