Sgt Maj Justin LeHew, ‘Hero of Nasiriyah,’ Will Retire July 31

By Faye Higbee

Sgt Maj Justin LeHew is a 30 year veteran of the United States Marine Corps. His retirement will be on July 31, but his retirement party will be held this Friday at the Assault Amphibian School at Camp Pendleton, California. He is currently assigned to the Wounded Warrior Battalion—East at Walter Reed Bethesda, National Medical Military Center in Maryland as a recovering service member. He is the recipient of the Navy Cross for his actions during  the Battle of Nasiriyah.

USMC photo

Sgt Maj LeHew is no stranger to combat. On March 23, 2003, the US Army 507th Maintenance Company supply convoy took a wrong turn and ended up at Nasiriyah, Iraq. It was a fateful mistake. Six US soldiers were captured, and 11 killed in an ambush. Then Platoon Sergeant LeHew was with Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Division (Task Force Tarawa). They were tasked with the rescue of the captured soldiers. After that, the Bravo and Charlie company’s pushed into Nasiriyah.

According to the Marine Corps Times,

LeHew exposed himself on multiple occasions during a three-hour intense firefight to capture the bridge. One AAV was hit by rocket propelled grenades and LeHew moved to recover the nine dead or wounded Marines while under a barrage of enemy fire.

Bravo and Charlie companies pushed into the city while Alpha secured the bridge. But Charlie company was soon bogged down in an intense urban gunfight as it spearheaded down a dangerous trek of the city dubbed “Ambush Alley” by Army planners.

The Corps would lose nearly 18 Marines and seven AAVs in the fight to secure Nasiriya. Many casualties resulted from a friendly fire incident involving an Air Force A-10 that mistook the Marines’ tracked amphib vehicles for Iraqi armor.

LeHew received the Navy Cross for his actions during that battle, and it earned him the nickname, “Hero of Nasiriyah.”

By 2004, he was awarded a bronze star with V Device in the battle for Najaf, Iraq with Company C, Battalion Landing Team 1/4, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit. His Bronze Star citation reads in part:

“For six hours, he repeatedly moved back and forth under heavy sniper fire and mortar attack, ensuring safety and inspiring Marines. During heavy fighting in the Najaf cemetery, he moved to assist in the treatment and evacuation of nine wounded Marines and three killed in action. His timely decision-making made the difference between life and death for two of these Marines. Throughout this 22-day battle, his decisive leadership and courage against a determined foe inspired the Marines under his charge and led the Battalion’s assault deep into enemy territory. “

Semper Fi, Sgt Maj LeHew. Enjoy your retirement… you  earned it.

Featured photo:

Marine Corps Sergeant Major Justin D. LeHew speaks at brick laying ceremony held in honor of three Marines at the Pacific War Memorial aboard Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Kaneohe Bay, on July 18, 2013.(Lance Cpl. Aaron S. Patterson/Marine Corps)