WOONSOCKET — Marine Staff Sgt. Bernard Coyne, a Woonsocket native and Bronze Star recipient, was recently honored for his heroic actions in Afghanistan and awarded the Spirit of Freedom Award at the 2012 United Service Organization (USO) Salute to Freedom Gala in Raleigh, N.C
The gala, held on Oct. 27, recognized six service members.
Audricia D. McKinney, spokesperson of the USO of North Carolina, said the USO recognized Coyne, an EOD (explosive ordnance disposal) technician with Headquarters Squadron, because he represents the core values of the USO of North Carolina.
“Staff Sgt. Coyne received the Salute to Freedom award because of his dedication to service and his country,” McKinney said. “He repeatedly placed the safety of his fellow Marines first and foremost. Staff Sgt. Coyne has the maturity, judgment, skills and leadership above his peers.”
During his 2011 deployment to Afghanistan, Coyne, an EOD technician attached to 2nd EOD Company, 2nd MLG, and teammate Staff Sgt. Jacob C. Hostetler, diffused 10 IEDs within a 50-meter area in one day while Taliban insurgents moved into position for an attack. Coyne knew what would happen if he made one wrong move, but he never showed his concern to those around him. In fact, he knew it was essential that he stay calm and diffuse the IOD buried in front of him - the first of 10 he and his partner would disarm that day.
Without his teammate, Coyne said he doesn’t think he would have been able to do what he did.
“We were wiped out after clearing 10 IEDs,” said the Woonsocket native. “If it had been just me, I may have gotten so tired I would have made a mistake.”
But he didn't and his actions earned him a Bronze Star. On March 16, Coyne was decorated for his heroic actions by Maj. Greg Wrubluski, company commander for Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, during a ceremony at Camp Lejeune. The medal was originally awarded to his grandfather during World War II.
Coyne says he doesn’t feel like he has done anything different than any other EOD tech does every day. He said he is glad for the publicity his Spirit of Freedom Award will garner, but not for him.
“I don’t care too much for being personally recognized,” he said. “It’s good to see the EOD community get recognized.”
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Michael Gaydeski, the headquarters sqaudron EOD officer in charge, said he spent time working in small quarters with Coyne on the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit in 2010. He said Coyne is indeed worthy of the recognition he has received.
“Staff Sgt. Coyne is an outstanding Marine,” Gaydeski said. “There’s no task he can’t accomplish. He looks out for Marines.”