Britt Slabinski, a native of Northampton, Massachusetts, enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1988, qualified for training as a SEAL and graduated from the rigorous course in January 1990. During his service, he completed nine overseas deployments and 15 combat deployments in support of the Global War on Terrorism, including Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.
Before dawn on March 4, 2002, Slabinski led a team assigned to occupy the peak of Takur Ghar, a steep, 10,000-foot, snow-covered mountain in Afghanistan. The enemy had already fortified the mountaintop and the helicopter carrying the team was raked with machine gun fire and rocket-propelled grenades, inflicting several casualties and causing one team member to fall out of the damaged craft before it lifted off and crash-landed in the valley below.
Mounting a rescue mission, Slabinski and his team flew back on another helicopter and successfully debarked under fire near the mountaintop. Slabinski and a teammate assaulted and cleared one enemy bunker. A machine gun in another nearby bunker began raking the team with fire. An exposed Slabinski weathered enemy fire on three sides as he moved forward to silence the second bunker.
“I wasn’t there with him, obviously, but it’s the same thing our soldiers feel today. That thought process, that internal spark that each of us has inside that says, “I’ve got to go do something,” is unchanged.”
But the team’s position was untenable. Slabinski led the team as they withdrew to a less-exposed position. When intense mortar fire forced the team even further down the mountain, Slabinski carried a seriously wounded teammate through deep snow to a new, more defensible position. For the next 14 hours, he kept his wounded teammates stabilized and continued fighting until Takur Ghar was secured with the help of other soldiers and his team could be extracted.
“All of these people that fought at Fredericksburg and that continue to fight in our military today, all we want is for our fellow Americans to be the best citizens they can possibly be. Go: contribute to our society. Go: make what happened here — not only on this battlefield but on the battlefields across the world — matter.”
On May 24, 2018, Slabinski was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor by President Donald J. Trump during a ceremony in the White House. Slabinski retired from the military in 2014 and is self-employed as a corporate consultant.
Modern portraiture by Robert Maxwell