Defense

Green Beret awarded for heroism during ‘pandemonium’ of Boston bombing

Lt. Col. David Diamond is awarded the Soldier's Medal.
The Hill / Kristina Wong
Lt. Col. David Diamond is awarded the Soldier’s Medal. From right to left: Army Secretary Eric Fanning, Lt. Col. David Diamond, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley. 

Army Special Forces Lt. Col. David Diamond felt triumphant. He had just broken his personal record, completing the 2013 Boston Marathon in under four hours, with a few minutes to spare. 

After crossing the finish line, in the stretch of road before runners exit the course and join their friends and family, he sat down on a curb to catch his breath and check his phone. 

Suddenly, a blast. Diamond knew exactly what it was. He had served five tours in Iraq, and it sounded just like when his convoy hit a roadside bomb in 2003, severely injuring one of his teammates. 

He jumped up and ran toward the sound, less than 50 meters away. It was surreal. He saw limbs everywhere. He said it smelled like a “detonated time fuse” and burning flesh.

{mosads}”I was pretty pissed off when I saw all the casualties,” Diamond told The Hill. “It was a perfect, patriotic day — great weather, a great vibe, great crowd.” 

Diamond’s emergency medical training immediately kicked in. 

He began giving Boston police and first responders direction on triaging the wounded, directing gawkers to get out of the way and securing the area and scanning for additional threats.  

Then the second bomb went off.

It was “pandemonium,” recalled Diamond, who now works in U.S. Special Operations Command’s legislative affairs office.

The first aid stations were not prepared for a mass casualty event like this, he said. Diamond ran into a sporting goods store and grabbed belts, socks, shirts — whatever he could find to use as makeshift tourniquets. 

He began treating those wounded, many from shrapnel, more than two dozens with amputated limbs. He also resuscitated a man who suffered from cardiac arrest. He carried an older man, a spectator wearing an argyle sweater, from ambulance to ambulance for about 800 meters before he could find one with space. 

For those actions, Diamond was awarded the Soldier’s Medal on Tuesday afternoon, in a private ceremony at the Capitol. The Hill was given special permission to cover the event.

In attendance were Army Secretary Eric Fanning, Army chief of staff Gen. Mark Milley, Army Sgt. Maj. Daniel Dailey, chief of legislative liaison Maj. Gen. Laura Richardson, and Department of the Army deputy chief of staff Maj. Gen. Erik Peterson. 

Also in attendance were Stephen Hedger, assistant secretary of defense for legislative affairs, and Tressa Guenov, principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for legislative affairs.

Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) presided over the ceremony. He became personally involved in Diamond’s case after the two-year window from the 2013 bombing to the award’s confirmation had passed and approval from a member of Congress was necessary. 

“In today’s new world, the battlegrounds have changed, but the face of valor has not. We must continue to recognize those who pass the test, and who answer the call without hesitation, without personal gain, and at risk to their own personal safety,” McCain said at the ceremony. 

Three people were killed and more than 200 injured in the bombing.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, a native of Kyrgyzstan, was convicted of the attack and sentenced to death in 2015. His brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, died after a shootout with police in Watertown, Mass.

The Soldier’s Medal, awarded for heroic acts outside of combat with the enemy, has been awarded only 25 times over the last decade. 

Diamond said his actions represent the Army’s values and the profession, and reflect the “majority of people I served with.”

“This is for them. This is not for myself,” he said. “It’s a family that we developed together.” 

Diamond has also previously been awarded a Bronze Star with Valor Device and a Bronze Star Medal. 

After the attack, Diamond ran into his friend, Army Col. David R. Bolduc, who was running with him earlier. The blast had disabled Diamond’s phone, so a good Samaritan let them borrow his, which Bolduc used to call his wife, who then notified Diamond’s wife he was OK. 

Diamond was covered in blood but “was oblivious to what I looked like.” 

He said what had happened had sunk in when he went back to the scene of the bombing the next day, to collect his race medal, as a keepsake of what happened. 

He said the entire area had been closed off since it was a crime scene. Cups, towels, and debris littered the street. Diamond said it was a “no man’s land.” 

“It put me back at the scene of being there,” he said. He remembered thinking, “This isn’t freaking Iraq. This is Boston.” 

While he said he did not form a personal connection with any of the victims, he was relieved he did not see a description of the older man he helped to an ambulance among those killed that day. 

“Had it been my family and friends, I would have wanted the same kind of help,” Diamond said at the ceremony. 

He said that event taught him that you can’t take anything for granted, and that you always have to be vigilant. He said he doesn’t avoid going to public places, but that he pays a lot more attention to people around him. 

Although the 2013 race was supposed to be his last, Diamond ran the Boston Marathon again in 2014. 

This time, security was of the highest caliber and people had “an edge” about them, he said. But it was also “very emotional,” he said. 

“It was definitely an occurrence that brought great homage. People were reflective…praying for a safe outcome,” he said. 

And this time, he said, he took the time to appreciate those last 300 yards. 

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