The Canadian Armed Forces honored a retired U.S. Army master sergeant now living in Weeki Wachee for saving the life of a Canadian soldier July 31, 2010 in Afghanistan.
Surrounded by family, friends and James A. Haley VA therapists who helped him recovery from a severe injury, Rick Cicero received the Canadian Commendation Medal for his bravery while serving as a military contractor and handler bomb detection dogs with the Canadian Task Force.
Tuesday was Col. Paul Keddy’s first day on the job as the senior Canadian representative with the U.S. Central Command Coalition of 56 countries.
First day or not, Keddy came prepared. He had talked with Cicero’s former leader in Afghanistan and brought a personal message to Cicero from the Oscar Combat Team.
“Your tenacity in the face of the enemy and unwavering loyalty to a teammate in a time of need are a credit to you and in keeping with the military traditions of both our countries,” Keddy read from a paper.
When an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) detonated and their team came under fire, Cicero is credited with clearing the area of any secondary devices, aiding a wounded soldier and setting up an evacuation zone.
The Canadian soldier he’s credited with saving lost a leg, however is still on active-duty with the Canadian Forces.
Cicero responded modestly to the praise. He declined to go to the microphone and instead spoke while standing on a small stage at the CENTCOM headquarters on MacDill Air Force Base.
He said the word hero is overdone.
“I will tell everybody, I just did my job. And that was the way I was raised as a soldier and that’s the way I was raised as a young man,” Cicero said. “It’s an honor to be standing her in front of you today.”
At his feet was his service dog who helps Cicero with his balance because later in 2010 another IED explosion while on patrol in Afghanistan took his right leg and right arm.
That’s one reason why Cicero invited some of the workers from the VA. He wanted them and his family to share in the moment.
But he told reporters it is not about him, instead, it’s about remembering the soldiers still serving in Afghanistan.
“The Canadians have a very, very positive image of Americans and American service members based on what Mr. Cicero did in the heat of the moment,” said Major Gen. Dave Beydler, director of strategy, plans and policy at CENTCOM.
Beydler was there to thank the Canadians for their coalition support and for recognizing Cicero’s sacrifice.