Born in Fall River, MA, a native of Palm Bay, FL, and a 1996 graduate of Melbourne Central Catholic High School, Gunnery Sergeant Jonathan Gifford enlisted in the Marine Corps in November 1996. He began his career as an infantry rifleman and later became a Reconnaissance Marine, assigned to 2ndForce Recon Company. He was honorably discharged from the Corps in July 2001, but returned during the beginning months of Operation Enduring Freedom. GySgt. Gifford deployed in support of both Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. He joined MARSOC in July 2006, just months after the unit was activated, serving as chief instructor of the MARSOC Advanced Sniper Course. He played soccer and baseball in high school and was described as a very talented, disciplined, and fierce competitor. GySgt. Gifford’s personal decorations include the Navy Cross awarded posthumously in June 2014, Navy-Marine Corps Commendation Medal with combat V, two Combat Action Ribbons, and four Good Conduct Medals.
General John M. Paxton, Jr., the assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, and Maj. Gen. Mark A. Clark, commanding general, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, spoke during the ceremony and then presented the award to Gifford’s wife and children.
“Acts of extraordinary heroism, those of conspicuous gallantry, are acts that cannot be planned, ordered or demanded. They are acts given fully and willingly by a person without regard to themselves; they are acts done for the man to their left, and the man to their right and for the mission” said Clark. “Today we are here to honor such a man.”
Gifford’s award cites, “Without hesitation he mounted an All-Terrain Vehicle and crossed 800 meters of exposed ground, preformed first aid and, with the help of another Marine, moved the causalities several hundred meters to a protected landing zone for medical evacuation. Realizing other commandos were under heavy gun fire and being wounded, Gifford gathered ammunition, and with another Marine, ran back across the same terrain under fire and led the commandos in an assault. Gifford, in his final act of bravery, eliminated an insurgent firing from a window, climbed atop the building from which insurgents were firing and dropped a grenade down the chimney. He continued to engage the enemy until he fell mortally wounded.” Gifford continued to uphold the core values of the Marine Corps until the very end, and his actions saved countless lives.
“Gifford’s actions during this fight were extraordinary and they turned the tide of this ambush, ultimately saving the lives of his fellow Marines, soldiers and Afghan commandos,” Paxton said during the ceremony.
“We are forever indebted to the service and leadership Gifford gave and continues to give through all those he has touched, and those who continue to serve, with the traits and characteristics garnered from Gifford’s tutelage,” concluded Paxton.