Most soldiers don’t think that what they do is heroic. And Spc. Nickolas Sangueza is no different. When his unit fell under heavy attack on May 17 in the Ghazni Province of eastern Afghanistan, he stepped up to help his fellow soldiers and received a Bronze Star with V device for his actions.
That day Sangueza was working as an assistant gunner for a mortar team while serving with the 3/73rd Cavalry, 82nd Airborne, stationed out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
“We were taking heavy, heavy fire. The stuff you see in movies with bullets flying everywhere, landing at your feet, hitting the rocks you’re taking cover behind,” Sangueza said.
While clearing IED hotspots Sangueza’s unit came under a complex attack that included small arms fire, sniper fire, machine gun fire, and indirect fire from mortars. Sangueza, a 2008 graduate of St. Mary’s High School, returned fire and effectively disrupted the enemy’s mortar team, allowing his own sniper team to gain a better firing position. But on the way up, one of the soldiers threw out his back and couldn’t move.
“I ran to him under heavy, accurate fire, assessed him, and moved him to cover,” Sangueza said. “After I determined that he was stable, I took his sniper rifle and ran up on the hill and began engaging the enemy with that.”
On Oct. 1, he was awarded the Bronze Star with V Device for his actions. The award narrative stated, “SPC Sangueza’s valor ensured the safety of the gun team and everyone on the over watch position.”
The award came as a surprise to Sangueza. He said while Bronze Stars are “fairly common,” the V Device makes the award more special.
“I don’t really feel heroic,” Sangueza said. “I saw a brother in need and I would have
done anything to help him. I was pretty shocked when I heard it was a Bronze Star with a V Device. The V stands for valor and denotes a medal awarded for actions under direct enemy contact.”
Sangueza said many things in his life have influenced his success in the military, one of those being his time at St. Mary’s.
“I feel the discipline I learned at St. Mary’s made the transition into the military easy for me,” he said. “Also I had the military in my blood. My father was a Green Beret. I thank my parents for everything though. They branded me with discipline at a young age.”
By Amy G. Partain, Communications Associate
St. Mary’s High School
Below: Spc. Nickolas Sangueza, left, receives the Bronze Star with V Device during a ceremony on Oct. 1. (Photo courtesy of Nickolas Sangueza.)