Special Forces Soldier receives highest honor from German army

BERLIN, Germany — Army Staff Sgt. Jonathon Zapien (foreground), 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), Ft. Bragg, N.C., recieves the German Ehrenmedaille (Honor Medal) from Gen. Wolfgang Schneiderhan, the German Chief of Defense, in a ceremony at the German Ministry of Defense here Sept. 12, 2006. Zapien was deployed to Afgahnistan with the German Special Forces Command from June to October 2005 as a liasion between the German unit and the U.S. contingent. The award is the highest honor the German army can give to a foreign soldier of Zapien's rank and according to Gen. Schneiderhan, represents a "sensational warrior with a very soldier-like attitude." Among other tasks perfomed during the deployment, Zapien played a key part in saving the life of a German soldier by calling in ground and air medical support.(Department of Defense photo by John Tomassi, U.S. European Command Public Affairs)

BERLIN, Germany - In a small ceremony led by the German Minister of Defense, Gen. Wolfgang Schneiderhan, Sept. 12, 2006, a U.S. Soldier assigned to the 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), Ft. Bragg, N.C., was presented the highest award the German army can present to a foreign soldier.

Army Staff Sgt. Jonathon Zapien, 25, from Houston, Texas, was deployed with the German Special Forces Command to Afghanistan from June to October 2005. While there, he acted as the sole liaison between the German unit and other coalition forces in the region.

He provided communications support, directed air support, went on regular patrols with the unit and on one occasion play an essential part in saving the life of a German soldier who was injured during an improvised explosive device attack, by calling in air and ground medical support.

Schneiderhan presented the Ehrenmedaille (honor medal) to Zapien on behalf of the German Special Forces Command. This is the first time German Special Forces has presented an award to a foreign soldier.

The German general, whose son was serving as a medical officer in Afghanistan during the same period, said that Zapien played a critical role on a strong and decisive team and "displays exemplary dedication and an exceptional sense of duty — a sensational warrior with a very soldier-like attitude."

Army Gen. William E. "Kip" Ward, U.S. European Command deputy commander also attended the ceremony and echoed comments from Schneiderhan saying that we are all "truly brothers and comrades in arms. I know Staff Sgt. Zapien will display this award proudly on his uniform."

Zapien said it was a great honor to receive the award and that he is "accepting it for all the other Soldiers who do amazing things everyday. I'm grateful to receive this on their behalf."

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