SAN ANTONIO – Two childhood friends received the Silver Star for their tremendous valor in combat while serving in Afghanistan. They received the medals during a ceremony at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph.
Major Joshua Hallada and Major Philip Bryant are two heroes with a bond that spans a lifetime.
"We're both military brats,” Major Bryant says. “Our fathers were classmates at the Air Force Academy. They were instructors in the early 1980s so we lived a block apart."
They’re now linked with Silver Stars, the third-highest combat decoration in the Air Force.
"It's overwhelming and humbling,” Major Hallada says.
They’re both combat search-and-rescue pilots.
On April 23, 2011, they got the call: two Army pilots were downed in an enemy-controlled region.
"It was getting close to dawn and we knew we had to execute fast,” Major Bryant says.
The Majors flew their formations into the area and encountered enemy fire.
"During the rescue, it didn't go as planned and we ended up having a flight engineer injured and two of our helicopters damaged,” Major Hallada says.
The Majors did not give up – they went back five times, an awe-inspiring effort to save the two Army soldiers who were separated in the fight. One of the Army pilots survived. The other did not.
"Unfortunately, the one Army pilot that was killed in the crash had a two-year-old and a pregnant wife,” Major Bryant says, choking back tears. “It was tough going to his memorial service."
A heartbreaking loss countered by the heartwarming heroics of two men who make a living putting their lives at risk to save others.
"I can't say what I was thinking about,” Major Hallada says. “I was just getting it done.”
Modesty is their motto: both Majors were quick to share the spotlight with their crew members, calling them the “backbone” of the search-and-rescue mission.