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Silver Star awarded to corpsman at Naval Hospital Pensacola

NAVAL HOSPITAL PENSACOLA - He ran through gunfire to help others and shielded men in harm's way in Afghanistan. A hospital corpsman was given the Silver Star today at Naval Hospital Pensacola.

Dozens of Sailors and Marines came out to pay tribute to him, including a general from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. But Hospital Corpsman Zackery Penner remained humble about the incredible acts he performed during his time in Afghanistan in 2012.

"One of my boys got shot on the roof," said HM3 Penner, "And I went to go help him as best I could."
   
That's how the 23 year-old medic describes the first act of valor on his citation, in which he ran through heavy gunfire from enemies who were just 50 yards away to treat a wounded Marine on a rooftop and get him to safety.

"I don't really remember too much about it either," Penner said, "I try to block it out."
   
Penner more clearly remembers the second act of valor, which happened the next day. He and his fellow troops were attacked by a sniper, and Penner once again ran through gunfire to reach wounded men.

"We were clearing out a compound," Penner said, "As we were about to step out, four shots rang out. I popped out and shot a few rounds down range. Then they started yelling that one of my buddies was hit.  I ran down to go get him, pretty much threw him on my back, got him on the other side. Another guy was hit, threw him on my back, got him on the other side of the wall. And as we were calling in the birds we started to get attacked from the other side."
   
Penner then shielded the men, who later died, before a helicopter pulled them out.

"It was more of a reaction than anything," he said, "You don't really have time to think about what's going on. You just gotta do it, especially when it's your best friend. You're around these guys 24-7 for years. You know 'em in and out."