Marine Sgt. John Place smiles as he gets a hug from
fellow sniper Sgt. Dave Williams just after Place
received the Silver Star Medal for his service in
Fallujah, Iraq in the spring of 2004
Hayne Palmour IV
Camp Pendleton sniper receives Silver Star
By: LOUISE ESOLA - Staff Writer
PENDLETON ---- In April 2004, over a loudspeaker heard
throughout the bloody streets of Fallujah, Iraq, insurgents
pleaded with Marines to pull back their deadly accurate snipers.
They were talking about guys such as 22-year-old Sgt. John
Place, a skilled scout sniper who kept his fellow Marines safe
by nailing insurgents with a single shot. That skill, and his
valor in Iraq, earned him a Silver Star, which he received here
at a ceremony Friday.
Star is the third-highest military award designated solely for
gallantry in combat.
Place, originally from St. Louis, is a former team leader with
the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division. He
was awarded the medal for his combat actions in March and April
2004 in and around Fallujah, according to the award citation,
which details five instances of heroism.
Maj. Gen. Richard Natonski, who spoke at the ceremony, said the
citation does not do justice to what Place, at the time a
corporal, did for Marines. It was after the city ---- in one of
the deadliest areas of Iraq ---- became ground zero for
insurgents, and after four American contractors had been killed
and burned in the streets.
"Sgt. Place went into the city and for three weeks he provided
over-watch" for other Marines, Natonski said. "He was their
The citation states that on March 18, 2004, Place's convoy was
attacked by two insurgents, who he "immediately located and
destroyed ... which enabled the convoy to proceed unharmed."
On March 26, while conducting security patrols, he "neutralized"
two insurgents' positions and "instilled confidence in his
Marines with his calm and collected demeanor." On April 7, he
coordinated with another infantry company to help eliminate
enemy forces. From April 11 to 24, his "keen observation skills"
provided support for other ground troops and "maintained a
lethal, long-range response to enemy attacks," the citation
And on April 26, "an enemy force attacked a company patrol 400
meters away from friendly lines. Place disregarded his own
safety and left the cover of his defensive position to close
with and destroy the enemy," according to the citation.
Place, who spent his childhood hunting with his father, said he
chose to be a sniper because he had the ability.
"If you have the ability, it's your responsibility," he said. "I
just wanted to be the best Marine I could be."
He said that every day he thinks about what he did in Iraq and
tries to focus on the positive.
"You make your peace with it," he said. "We lost a lot of good
Marines over there."
With the Silver Star now adorning the left side of his desert
camouflage uniform, he said he feels that it is an award for
everyone who fought.
"It's great to be recognized, but ... there are people around
here who've done just as heroic things," he said, looking at
crowds of Marines who attended the ceremony and lined up to
shake his hand.
His parents, Richard and Lynn Place, and his older brother,
Richard Place, also attended the ceremony.
Lynn Place said she is proud of her son, but admits having him
sent off to war ---- in 2003 and again in 2004 ---- was not
easy. "It's difficult when you send off your little boy and he
comes back a man who's taking care of others," she said.
Place, who joined the Marines in October 2001, is not certain
whether he will re-enlist this year. He's now assigned to the
1st Marine Division Schools as a marksmanship instructor.