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US Marine Earns Silver Star

North County Times, San Diego, California

Friday, June 24, 2005 11:06 PM PDT

Marine Sgt. John Place smiles as he gets a hug from fellow sniper Sgt. Dave Williams just after Place received the Silver Star Medal for his service in Fallujah, Iraq in the spring of 2004
Hayne Palmour IV


Camp Pendleton sniper receives Silver Star

By: LOUISE ESOLA - Staff Writer

CAMP PENDLETON ---- In April 2004, over a loudspeaker heard throughout the bloody streets of Fallujah, Iraq, insurgents pleaded with Marines to pull back their deadly accurate snipers.

They were talking about guys such as 22-year-old Sgt. John Place, a skilled scout sniper who kept his fellow Marines safe by nailing insurgents with a single shot. That skill, and his valor in Iraq, earned him a Silver Star, which he received here at a ceremony Friday.

The Silver Star is the third-highest military award designated solely for gallantry in combat.

Place, originally from St. Louis, is a former team leader with the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division. He was awarded the medal for his combat actions in March and April 2004 in and around Fallujah, according to the award citation, which details five instances of heroism.

Maj. Gen. Richard Natonski, who spoke at the ceremony, said the citation does not do justice to what Place, at the time a corporal, did for Marines. It was after the city ---- in one of the deadliest areas of Iraq ---- became ground zero for insurgents, and after four American contractors had been killed and burned in the streets.

"Sgt. Place went into the city and for three weeks he provided over-watch" for other Marines, Natonski said. "He was their guardian angel."

The citation states that on March 18, 2004, Place's convoy was attacked by two insurgents, who he "immediately located and destroyed ... which enabled the convoy to proceed unharmed."

On March 26, while conducting security patrols, he "neutralized" two insurgents' positions and "instilled confidence in his Marines with his calm and collected demeanor." On April 7, he coordinated with another infantry company to help eliminate enemy forces. From April 11 to 24, his "keen observation skills" provided support for other ground troops and "maintained a lethal, long-range response to enemy attacks," the citation states.

And on April 26, "an enemy force attacked a company patrol 400 meters away from friendly lines. Place disregarded his own safety and left the cover of his defensive position to close with and destroy the enemy," according to the citation.

Place, who spent his childhood hunting with his father, said he chose to be a sniper because he had the ability.

"If you have the ability, it's your responsibility," he said. "I just wanted to be the best Marine I could be."

He said that every day he thinks about what he did in Iraq and tries to focus on the positive.

"You make your peace with it," he said. "We lost a lot of good Marines over there."

With the Silver Star now adorning the left side of his desert camouflage uniform, he said he feels that it is an award for everyone who fought.

"It's great to be recognized, but ... there are people around here who've done just as heroic things," he said, looking at crowds of Marines who attended the ceremony and lined up to shake his hand.

His parents, Richard and Lynn Place, and his older brother, Richard Place, also attended the ceremony.

Lynn Place said she is proud of her son, but admits having him sent off to war ---- in 2003 and again in 2004 ---- was not easy. "It's difficult when you send off your little boy and he comes back a man who's taking care of others," she said.

Place, who joined the Marines in October 2001, is not certain whether he will re-enlist this year. He's now assigned to the 1st Marine Division Schools as a marksmanship instructor.



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