Orlando resident receives second Bronze Star for Valor for service in Afghanistan

Written by  //  October 4, 2011  //  Feature Stories

ORLANDO, Fla. (Oct.  4, 2011) – Capt. Michael T. Waldrop of Orlando received his second Bronze Star for Valor at a ceremony Sept. 26, celebrating his brave and decisive actions while serving in Afghanistan in November 2006.

Friends and Brothers in Arms, 1st Sgt. Geoffrey Miotke (right) and Capt. Michael Waldrop shake hands after Miotke presented Waldrop with a Bronze Star for Valor. Also pictured: Lt. Col. John Rooney of the 164th Air Defense Artillery Brigade. Photo courtesy 164th ADA

Held at the Orlando armory of the 164th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, the ceremony attracted family, friends and his former first sergeant, along with several members of the Orlando Veteran’s Council and even former World War II prisoner of war Bill Coleman.

First Sergeant Geoffrey Miotke, who served with Waldrop during the events of 2006, was on hand to provide details about the day they found themselves under enemy fire in the Panjaway Valley of Kandahar Province.  He described the fear and uncertainty among their Soldiers that preceded Waldrop’s decision to press into an area under heavy direct fire.

“He’s the finest Infantry officer I’ve ever had the privilege of serving with in my 22 years of military service,” said Miotke.  Miotke continued on by saying that Waldrop was dynamic…and was also his best friend.  Indeed, he shared stories of their continued friendship following those “dangerous, but exciting” years in Afghanistan.

According to his award citation, Capt. Waldrop’s unit was ambushed by Anti-Coalition Militia insurgents in Seperwan Ghar in November 2006.  After receiving heavy enemy fire attempting to flank and pin down his unit, Waldrop maneuvered his Soldiers quickly and decisively, which ultimately “turned the tide of the ambush.”  According to Miotke, Waldrop – who was assigned at the company level – assumed control of the battalion element when the Afghan National Army Executive Officer who was leading the group was wounded.  Under his command, the unit was able to force the enemy to retreat and allowed the wounded to be extracted from the kill zone.

Waldrop is a former Active Duty Infantry Officer who was ordered back to active duty with the 41st Brigade Command Team of the Oregon National Guard after transferring into the Inactive Ready Reserve in 2005.  He was selected to command an Afghanistan National Army Rifle Company of nearly 60 foreign Soldiers, and it was during his tenure there under Operation Enduring Freedom that he sacrificed his safety for his troops and defeat of the enemy.  Waldrop describes the experience leading the Afghan National Army troops as “rogue, but meaningful.”  He talked of the struggles to understand their language, their culture and their training, but how in the end “they were our brothers in arms.”

This is Capt. Waldrop’s second Bronze Star for Valor.  The first came in July of 2006, during the same deployment in Afghanistan.  The very next day in 2006, he was wounded in the Battle of Panjwai and received the Purple Heart.

“He has never stopped serving this nation and the veterans of this nation,” said Miotke.

During his time in Afghanistan, Waldrop led an effort to urge the State of Florida to exempt property taxes for service members serving in combat zones.  In 2010, the State of Florida passed the idea into law, which led to a $15 million tax break for Florida’s military families.

After returning home from Afghanistan in 2008, Waldrop founded Blue Cord Design and Construction, which is an Orlando-based construction company that is built around giving jobs to returning service members.  In addition, he is a founder of the Camaraderie Foundation, a non-profit organization that helps veterans with mental health support and spiritual counseling.  Several members of the Foundation sat in the crowd on Sept. 26 while Waldrop received the award.