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MSG Brendan W. O'Connor
Place of birth West Point, New York
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service 1980–2016
Rank Sergeant Major
Unit 7th Special Forces Group
Battles/wars Operation Enduring Freedom

Sergeant Major Brendan W. O'Connor (born ca. 1960) is a Special Forces medical sergeant in the United States Army. On April 30, 2008, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his heroic action in Afghanistan.[1][2] The DSC is the nation's second highest award for valor (after the Medal of Honor) and this was only the second time since the Vietnam War that the medal was awarded.

Early life

Brendan W. O'Connor attended the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, the fifth of six children, to LTC Mortimer O'Connor and Elizabeth O'Connor. After his father died in combat in Vietnam, the family settled in Moorestown, New Jersey, where he attended Moorestown High School.[3] Brendan enlisted in the United States Army Reserves (USAR) and enrolled in the Reserve Officers' Training Corps at Valley Forge Military Junior College at Wayne, Pennsylvania, in 1978. He was commissioned in 1980 and served as the executive officer of a Special Forces team, later as a rifle platoon leader and rifle company commander, and then as a team commander.[4]

In 1994, he resigned his commission in the Reserves and enlisted in the Active Army to become a Special Forces medical sergeant.[1] In 2005, he deployed to Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom as a medical sergeant and a team's operations sergeant.[4]

Heroic action

On June 22, 2006, O'Connor and his team were ambushed by over 250 Taliban fighters in southern Afghanistan. During the ensuing 17½ hours of intense combat, two soldiers were seriously wounded. The Afghan translator with the team radioed for permission to kill the two wounded soldiers and himself to prevent the Taliban from capturing, then torturing, mutilating, and executing them.[5]

O'Connor started to crawl out to assist the two wounded soldiers but couldn't get low enough to avoid detection. He then removed his body armor and slowly crawled toward the two soldiers, taking a full 90 minutes to crawl 200 yards, while machine gun bullets passed close enough to cut down the grass around him. Eventually reaching the wounded, O'Connor gave them first aid, then moved them to a more secure position.[6] Afterwards the team sergeant was killed, at which point O'Connor took command of the team.[7]

Covered by a United States Air Force plane, the team was able to withdraw. They suffered two dead and one seriously wounded but had killed over 120 Taliban fighters.[8]

In a ceremony at Fort Bragg, O'Connor was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross while two other soldiers were awarded Silver Stars (one posthumously).[9]


He is married to Margaret Elizabeth (née Garvey); they have two sons and two daughters.[10]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Henry Cunningham (May 1, 2008). "Medic gets Distinguished Service Cross". The Fayetteville Observer. 
  2. MilitaryTimes Hall of Valor
  3. "Proclamation honoring Master Sergeant Brendan O'Connor by the Township Council of Moorestown Township". 
  4. 4.0 4.1 "BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH". U.S. Army. April 20, 2008.'Connor%20Biography.pdf. Retrieved 2008-05-03. [dead link]
  5. "MSG Brendan O'Connor – Someone You Should Know". May 2, 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-03. 
  6. Kevin Maurer (May 3, 2008). "Green Beret gets DSC for crawl to save soldiers". The Associated Press. Retrieved 2008-05-03. 
  7. Gavin MacRoberts (May 1, 2008). "Soldier awarded service award". Retrieved 2 October 2009. "After saving the soldiers, O'Connor took over his Special Forces team, after their team sergeant had been killed. He then lead them to victory over the attacking Taliban Fighters." 
  8. "Green Berets Recount Deadly Taliban Ambush". CBS News 60 Minutes. April 20, 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-03. 
  9. "Special Forces Soldier is awarded the second highest medal for combat". U.S. Army. May 1, 2008. Retrieved 2013-06-03. 
  10. "O'Conner Biography".'Connor%2520Biography.pdf+MSG+Brendan+W.+O'Connor+born+at+West+Point+on&hl=en&gl=us&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEESjlTCbVeLFiB6RLekNvo6MJPTng6gWve3kIIAmbiXblk1EEdujiGruEg1LWxstRdNbzDyvgvE7UpYiHk3tUZTScNXGy1e38myPEKEKOXY3dx5zxDKvcsJA3hNPhv2Ca2BVElwyi&sig=AHIEtbROAAbcseB2l1q5_WbTYwvSwZAxHQ. 

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