A Marine Corps scout sniper was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for combat heroism in a ceremony at Camp Pendleton Friday.
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Sgt. Matthew T. Abbate, 26, was assigned to Camp Pendleton's Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment when he was killed in combat on Dec. 2, 2010, in Afghanistan's Helmand province, according to the base's public affairs office.
The Navy Cross -- like its Army and Air Force equivalents -- is the nation's second-highest award for combat heroism. Abbate received the Navy Cross for actions he took two months prior to his death.
On Oct. 14, 2010, in Sangin province, Afghanistan, "Abbate lead his section of Marines through an insurgent ambush that began as their patrol came under insurgent fire while in a minefield," the Navy Cross citation reads.
"The Marines began to take fire from the enemy and were moving into cover, when two Marines and one corpsman were injured."
While Abbate was "exposed and personally suppressing the enemy, he directed the remaining squad members' fire until they effectively suppressed," according to the citation. He rendered life-saving aid to the casualties, coordinated the medical evacuation, swept the landing zone for explosives and led a counter attack to clear enemy fighters from the landing zone, which allowed a helicopter to evacuate the injured, base officials said.
"Several of them would not be here with us today if it were not for Sgt. Abbate, no doubt," said Lt. Col. Chris Griffin, the company commander.
Members of Abbate's family were on hand to accept the Navy Cross on his behalf at a ceremony on the 3/5 parade deck.
Those who deployed with him and those who were friends with him said it's no surprise that Abbete would be the first to help someone else.
"I think he would do that for anybody, anywhere," said friend Elizabeth Fisher.
Abbate, who also served in Iraq, enlisted in the Marine Corps on Feb. 1, 2006. He attended Buchanan High School in Clovis, and is survived by his wife and a then-2-year-old son, who lived in the Fresno area.
Other service awards received by Abbate prior to his death included the Purple Heart, Combat Action Ribbon, Navy and Marine Achievement Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal and Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.
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