Special Agent Solarino of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations will receive the Bronze Star with a “V” Device for Valor tomorrow for helping to save the life of Brian Kolfage in Iraq nine years ago.
Nine years ago, Kolfage and Solarino, a Chicago native, were assigned to the 887th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron, serving at Balad Air Base in Northern Iraq. On the afternoon of Sept. 11, 2004, Kolfage was hit by a mortar round as he walked from his tent.
Solarino, a friend of Kolfage, was within 20 feet when Kolfage was hit. Solarino was thrown 10 feet by the blast, but jumped up and ran to see who had been injured.
“The anniversary of Sept. 11was always a bad day over there,” Solarino recalled today. In the midst of a continuing mortar attack, he was able to identify the face-down Kolfage by the white cap he had been wearing.
As mortars rained down around them, Solarino and another airman administered first aid – saving Kolfage’s life. They called for medics and Kolfage was taken to the base hospital where both of his legs and the forearm on his right arm were amputated.
According to the medal citation: “With complete disregard for his own safety and while still under enemy attack, Airman Solarino assessed the situation, identified the airman and, noticing a large amount of blood flowing from several severe wounds, immediately shouted for a medic. … He stabilized the airman’s head and neck and applied pressure to his wounds, all the while using his own body to shield the airman from several more rocket attacks. … Airman Solarino’s quick thinking and complete disregard for his own safety directly resulted in saving the life of a fellow airman.”
Kolfage spent a year recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, undergoing an additional 16 surgeries. In 2005, Kolfage came to Tucson. Today he is married, has a 5-month-old daughter and is a student in the College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture at the University of Arizona. Solarino is stationed at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.