Story by Staff Sgt. Phillip Valentine
Office of the Chief, Army Reserve
“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of fear.”
– Mark Twain (1835 – 1910), American Novelist and Journalist
It’s the battlefield scenario that every Soldier trains for.
For Col. Brad Wenstrup, a combat veteran who served 14 months as chief surgeon at the Abu Ghraib prison hospital, years of training kicked in when the gunfire erupted. In an instant, he was faced with a casualty situation and more than a dozen lives at risk, including his own.
“My time in the Army Reserve has provided me the ability to remain calm,” said Wenstrup. “I needed to stay calm. I knew what I need to do and I knew that I could do it.”
They were far from the battlefield on that early morning of June 14, 2017. Wenstrup, a representative from Ohio in his civilian life, had joined fellow members of the congressional republican baseball team, in Alexandria, Virginia, for a practice game. It was on this otherwise idyllic start to the day, that a man, armed with a rifle and a handgun, walked up to third base and opened fire on the players. Standing at second base, House Majority Whip Steve Scalise was the first struck. He fell to the ground, unable to move as his body went into shock.
“As I lay on the ground, I could hear the gunfire going back and forth, but I couldn’t see the shooter,” said Scalise.
Despite the barrage of bullets flying, Wenstrup remained on the field. As Capitol Police and Scalise’s security detail engaged the gunman, the shooter, undaunted, continued firing toward the dugout, Wenstrup knew that Steve needed help.
“I had to get out there, but I know I cannot just run out there, this guy is just firing down my lane. I knew not to be stupid and get hurt. Who would help then,” said Wenstrup. ” I didn’t have cover, but time was of the essence.”
Once the shooter was subdued, Wenstrup rushed to Scalise’s aid. His initial assessment and immediate treatment of the gunshot wound was, by many accounts, life-saving.
“I heard the words ‘shooter down,’ and in seconds Brad Wenstrup was by my side,” said Scalise. “Asking me where my injury was. I call him my hero. I am here today because of Brad Wenstrup. There is no doubt.”
For heroism above and beyond the call of duty, and for personifying the Army Values; Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, and Personal Courage, this Army Reserve Soldier, Representative of Ohio’s 2nd District, podiatrist, Bronze Star recipient and baseball player, received the Army’s highest award for heroism outside of combat April 26, 2018, at the Nation’s Capital — the Soldier’s Medal.
Secretary of the Army Dr. Mark T. Esper and Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, presented award and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Representative Steve Scalise, addressed the audience.
“No one is more deserving of this kind of recognition: not only for what you did on that day, but for what you do every day to answer the call to serve,” said Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. “Our heroes always say they were at the right place at the right time. But really, they just have the right stuff–the stuff that drives them to run into fire. The valor that goes beyond what words can describe.”
Disciplined, physically and mentally tough, trained and proficient in their warrior tasks and drills, the American Soldier stands as our Nation’s most visible and enduring symbol of strength.
In the Army Reserve, highly-skilled Warrior Citizens stand ready to serve the Nation as both Soldiers and engaged civilians around the globe — and at home.