ROTC grad honored for heroic war acts

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Maj. Mark E. Mitchell, a 1987 Marquette Army ROTC graduate, was awarded the nation's second highest military award Friday for heroic acts in a battle in Afghanistan a year ago.

During war in Afghanistan, Mitchell was the ground force commander of a rescue operation during the Battle of Qala-I-Jangi Fortress, a prison in Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan. Between Nov. 25 and 28, Mitchell saved one American and obtained the body of an American killed at the site, according to the award statement. For his work, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

"His unparalleled courage under fire, decisive leadership and personal sacrifice were directy responsible for the success of the rescue operation and were further instrumental in ensuring the city of Mazar-e-Sharif did not fall back in the hands of the Taliban," the award stated.

"He ensured that the Taliban didn't uprise and take control of the prison," said Army Capt. Nathan Meidl, Marquette's scholarship and enrollment officer.

The battle was the first in the war in Afghanistan. In that occurrence, CIA agent Johnny "Mike" Spann was killed.

To receive the Destinguished Service Cross, one "has to have risked their life to save others," Meidl said. "To receive this award means Maj. Mitchell has proven himself as one of the most loyal patriots we have in risking his life for others.

"Receiving this award both deserves and demands the respect of not only other soldiers but any other American," Meidl said.

The award has not been granted since the Vietnam War, according to the U.S. Army. It was established during World War I.

Meidl said the time lapse between the awards is likely due to the little hand-to-hand combat in wars since then.

"I think (it was) because the Gulf War didn't provide the close combat Afghanistan provided our troops," he said.

Because of the award, Mitchell was asked to be the speaker at the Army ROTC Military Ball in April, Meidl said. His message will be one of inspiration to the cadets, students enrolled in Army ROTC. It will also focus "on the leadership opportunities the Army has provided him and will provide them in the future," he said.

Mitchell, who majored in biomedical engineering at Marquette, was also in the Gulf War, according to the U.S. Army.

From the battle in Afghanistan, Mitchell went to Iraq. He received the award in Florida Friday and has returned to his post in the Special Operations Command Control in Iraq.