Rochester native Brian Chontosh graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology in 2000. Three years later, he was headed to war in Baghdad.
Chontosh led his Marine Corps platoon as it came under enemy fire during an ambush. Tanks blocked Highway 1, and machine gun fire, grenades and mortars exploded around the group.
“As Chontosh’s platoon traveled Highway 1 toward Baghdad, an Iraqi position parallel to the road began to rain machine-gun fire and rocket-propelled grenades on his convoy,” according to a Marine Corps citation. “Chontosh ordered his driver to charge their Humvee directly toward the enemy position, allowing the gunner atop the vehicle to attack the enemy emplacement, silencing the Iraqi machine-gun. The driver rammed the Humvee directly into the enemy trench as Chontosh and the others leapt from the vehicle.
“Chontosh fired his M-16 rifle until his ammo was depleted. He then drew his 9 mm pistol and fired until he was out of bullets. He picked up a discarded AK-47 from the trench and continued fighting. His comrades fighting beside him passed him a rocket-propelled grenade launcher taken from the Iraqis, which he used to dispatch another enemy position. Finally, he retrieved another Iraqi AK-47 and fought until all his ammo was spent, saving the convoy and his fellow Marines.”
U.S. Rep. Tom Reed, R-23rd District, nominated Chontosh for the Congressional Medal of Honor, one of the oldest and continuously issued awards given to U.S. armed forces personnel. This recognition for courage, valor and leadership was established in 1861.
Chontosh said he is proud to be considered for the Medal of Honor, but sees this as an honor that allows him to represent a larger group of men and women who served bravely.
“Being awarded above where I have already been recognized is not an honor for myself to bear personally, but rather to represent the men and women who fought beside me honorably and bravely across dozens of engagements and years of service,” said Chontosh, who received the Navy Cross in 2004 and was named a RIT Distinguished Alumni in 2005. “So many receive little recognition and I would consider this more theirs.”
Chontosh’s nomination is in the first stage of the legislative process and will undergo consideration in congressional committees this fall. If advanced, the bill would be voted on by the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate, then signed by the president. Chontosh would receive the medal at the White House and follow in the footsteps of 3,600 service personnel.