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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, May 30, 2009

Sergeant earns Silver Star

By William Cole
Advertiser Military Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Army Maj. Gen. Raymond Mason congratulated Sgt. Scott Kenyon after presenting him with a Silver Star at a Schofield Barracks ceremony yesterday. Kenyon was honored for courage under fire in Iraq.

BRUCE ASATO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Kenyon’s helmet stopped this 9mm bullet, lodged in it when he was fired on by one of two men the soldiers say were planting a roadside bomb.

U.S. Army photo

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Sgt. Scott Kenyon, shown here on patrol, returned early this year from a Stryker Brigade deployment in Iraq.

U.S. Army photo

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SCHOFIELD BARRACKS — Under cover of darkness, the Hawai'i soldiers were able to move up undetected the first couple hundred yards as they closed in on two Iraqis planting a roadside bomb in Anbar province.

Sgt. Scott Kenyon rounded a corner on a row of roadside shops to cross the last 150 feet. That's when one Iraqi — the one with a silenced 9mm submachine gun — spotted him.

As muffled rounds flew through the air at the advancing Kenyon, he fired back, hitting both Iraqis. The enemy with the machine gun was hit in the wrist and the weapon clattered away.

The Schofield Barracks soldier was hit twice, but his Kevlar helmet stopped one bullet and a protective chest plate stopped the other.

"I'm not going to lie. I was scared — I was scared to death," the tall and lanky 22-year-old man from Lansing, Mich., said yesterday.

Kenyon couldn't hear the rounds because of the silencer, although he knew he was being hit.

The bullet that impacted his helmet turned his head.

"It felt like somebody had grabbed my head and turned it to the side," he said.

But he kept going, wrestling down the Iraqi who had the machine gun, while another Schofield squad killed the other man.

Yesterday, against a much different backdrop of greenery at Schofield Barracks, where the greatest threat was rain, Kenyon received a Silver Star for his actions in Iraq nearly a year ago on June 6, 2008.

The medal is the nation's third-highest military award for valor. Kenyon was recognized for his courage under enemy fire and effectiveness in subduing two enemy combatants.

About 75 fellow soldiers in B Company of the 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry "Gimlets" stood in formation during the award and congratulated — and razzed — Kenyon afterward, shaking his hand and slapping him on the shoulder.

"Serving my country is enough for me. Getting the Silver Star — that's a bonus," Kenyon said.

He also pointed out the contributions of the other soldiers on the mission.

"It wasn't just me," said Kenyon, a somewhat reserved soldier who didn't look entirely comfortable in the spotlight.

The presentation took place at the 25th Infantry Division Memorial near the entrance to Fernandez Hall, the division headquarters at Schofield Barracks.

The bronze memorial depicts three ghostly soldiers from past wars standing behind a modern soldier looking at a combat memorial of upturned rifle, boots and helmet for a fallen comrade.

Maj. Gen. Raymond Mason said he was honored to present Kenyon's Silver Star, and he noted the date of the action — June 6 — famous as the date of the D-Day invasion in Normandy, France, in 1944.

"Sixty-five years ago on the 6th of June, on the shores of Normandy, soldiers just like yourselves hit the beach to liberate Europe," Mason said. "... What was in the hearts of those soldiers on that day 65 years ago was in your heart."

Kenyon was part of the 4,300-soldier Stryker Brigade's 15-month deployment to Iraq that ended in January and February.

Lt. Col. Mario Diaz, Kenyon's battalion commander, said that in June 2008 "we were still fighting a very difficult and determined enemy" in the 1-21 Gimlet operations area around Abu Ghraib in Anbar province.

Kenyon and other Schofield soldiers had headed out to Route North Stars West to secure engineers who were repairing road damage from a roadside bomb crater when the two additional bomb planters were observed.

Kenyon, a Ranger-qualified soldier who was on his first deployment to Iraq, said there were other firefights.

"Different little ones, but nothing like this, though," he said.

Stryker Brigade soldiers have received the Silver Star, 47 Purple Hearts, five Bronze Stars with Valor, and 17 Army Commendation medals with Valor for their actions on the deployment, officials said.