On Oct. 1, 2008, then-2nd Lt. Nicholas Eslinger, a platoon leader in Company C, 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, acted on instinct when an enemy threw a grenade at him and his troops while they were conducting a dismounted patrol through Samarra, Iraq. Eslinger swiftly moved toward the grenade, covering it with his body to protect his troops. When the grenade didn't immediately detonate, he threw it back in the direction of the enemy and warned his troops to take cover just before the grenade went off.
As a result, Eslinger saved at least six Soldiers from injury and death. Following the explosion, he continued to pursue the enemy combatant, which eventually led to the enemy's capture and detention. Eslinger received the Silver Star for his actions in early 2009. That was meant to be the end of it, but in 2017 his award was one of many that came under review as an act considered to be under recognized.
On Feb. 25, 2019, Gen. Mark Milley, U.S. Army chief of staff, signed the orders officially upgrading Eslinger's award to the Distinguished Service Cross, the U.S. Army's second highest award for battlefield valor and gallantry to the risk of one's life. Eslinger, currently a major attending the Command and General Staff Officer Course at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., was presented the award by Gen. Stephen Townsend, commanding general of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, during a ceremony May 3 in the Roberts Room of the Lewis and Clark Center at Fort Leavenworth.
"Nick, your reaction to move toward the grenade that day rather than away from it was more than just your training. I think it was more instinct. I think that is hardwired into your DNA as a leader. I think it is hardwired in your thought to take care of your Soldiers," Townsend said. "I think you demonstrated by your actions that day that you were willing to die for them if necessary, to sacrifice all of your tomorrows for your Soldiers. You are an inspiration to all of us, and I am honored to serve in the Army that produces such leaders." Read more.