U.S Army Soldier awarded the Distinguished Service Cross

Local soldier receives high honor for bravery

A Lewiston native who survived a deadly rooftop attack in Iraq - including grenades and countless bullets - has been awarded one of the Army's highest honors.

President Bush personally awarded 23-year-old Sgt. Christopher Corriveau with the Distinguished Service Cross last week at Fort Bragg, N.C.

The Leavitt Area High School graduate was part of a four-person sniper group that parachuted onto a rooftop in Samarra, Iraq, on Aug. 27, 2007.

The team's job was to protect other U.S. soldiers. Instead, they were surrounded and attacked by a force of at least 40, according to a U.S. Army release.

"His four-man sniper team courageously fought off an enemy force in close combat for control of a rooftop during Operation Iraqi Freedom, killing or wounding at least 10 insurgents," read an Army news release.

Corriveau escaped injury. Two members of the team were killed. The other soldier, a sniper who joined the three-man team for the mission, also escaped.

The Mainer remains shaken.

"It sucks that the rest of my team is dead," Corriveau told CBS News last week. "I almost wanted to die that day on the rooftop with my brothers."

He declined to be interviewed on Thursday.

"It's a bittersweet situation," said a spokesman for his unit, the 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 82nd Airborne Division. Corriveau plans to leave the Army when his enlistment ends, he said.

Gail LaBelle, who helped raise Corriveau and now works with veterans in South Carolina, said she isn't surprised by the young hero's reaction.
"Chris is a genuine, caring and compassionate person," said LaBelle, who was married to Corriveau's father, Normand Begin.

Like so many returning veterans, he may be coming home with a heavy heart.

"It's very tough for them," LaBelle said. "There's a lot of guilt that goes with being a survivor. If he's done talking, that's Chris."

He may feel differently as time goes on, she said.

Corriveau grew up in Lewiston and attended Catholic schools until he moved to Greene with his father. He was still a boy when his mother, Leeza Corriveau, died.

He joined the Army in May 2005.

LaBelle said she hadn't spoken with Corriveau in "a couple of years," but she was bursting with pride when she learned of the Army's honor.

"This is unbelievable," she said.

Fewer than a dozen Distinguished Service Crosses have been awarded since the start of the war in Iraq, said Paul Bernard, chairman of the L&A Veterans Council. The only higher award is the Medal of Honor.

However, Bernard said he was saddened that so many medals were awarded on the day Corriveau received his honor. He hears lots of complaints, he said.

"Some say it's an effort to promote good PR for the ongoing war," Bernard said.

Either way, Corriveau is a hero and deserves a big welcome if he chooses to return home to Maine, Bernard said.

The council, which works with the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and other local groups, will give Corriveau a splashy welcome if it's OK with him.

"We're supporting the veterans," Bernard said. "We want them all to be honored."

This man is a true hero and I hope he is able to heal after this event.
Here is Sgt Corriveau's DSC citation:

"For exceptional valor and intrepid actions above and beyond the call of duty while serving with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2d Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 3d Brigade Combat Team, 82d Airborne Division, while repelling an overwhelming and heavily armed enemy force on 26 August 2007 during Operation IRAQI FREEDOM 06-08. Specialist Corriveau's exceptional courage, tenacity and tactical prowess under intense enemy fire and close combat contributed to the defeat of a concerted enemy effort to overrun his sniper position. Surrounded and attacked by an enemy force ten times superior to that of his own, Specialist Corriveau and his fellow Paratroopers valiantly repelled the enemy attack with withering small arms fire and grenades. His four-man sniper team courageously fought off an overwhelming enemy force for control of the rooftop for over ten minutes in close combat, killing or wounding at least ten enemies in the process. His distinguished valor, unquestionable devotion to duty and loyalty to his fellow Paratroopers in the most dire of circumstances are in keeping with the finest traditions of military heroism and reflect great credit upon himself, Task Force Two Panther, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Task Force Lightning, and the United States Army."

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