Slidell man honored for actions overseas

Published 12:49 am Sunday, February 22, 2009

On a cold morning in front of the Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command building, a Navy Reserve officer was presented the Bronze Star for his efforts in fighting terrorism overseas.

After the daily flag raising ceremony Friday, Lt. Daniel Clifton was honored for his bravery and investigative skills. The honor was bestowed upon him for his work in capturing three suspects, one was the 10th most wanted suspect within Iraqi operations, Jaish al-Mahdi, according to a press release from NAVO.

Clifton said he joined the military for the purpose of fighting terrorism. He even gave up an easy assignment in Guantanamo Bay to go overseas into Iraq, said CWO3 Chuck Taylor. Cmdr. Wayne Day said people step forward to join the military every day, but very few would give up an easy assignment to go to Iraq instead.

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Clifton said the Sep. 11, 2001, terrorist attack prompted him to join and ask for the longest tour he could get in Iraq.

“After Sept. 11, I couldn’t stand on the sidelines anymore,” Clifton said.

While in Iraq, a city council building in Sadr City had been hit with an improvised explosive device. Clifton took it upon himself to secure the scene, collect what turned out to be crucial evidence, interview witnesses and search suspects for bomb residue, he said.

Two bomb suspects were picked out of about 100 possible suspects he checked for bomb residue. The top ten most wanted suspect, al-Mahdi, was hunted down with information gathered in the investigation and captured four days later by Clifton and his crew, he said.

Commander of the Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command, Rear Adm. David W. Titley presented the Bronze Star to Clifton on behalf of Army Lt. Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, Commander Multinational Corps Iraq, the release states. Titley said in his year as rear admiral, he has only presented one other Bronze Star.

“They just don’t give them out,” Titley said.

Titley said Clifton’s work overseas has made life safer for not only the soldiers he worked with but also the Iraqi citizens. Thanks to efforts from Clifton and all the other soldiers like him overseas, the level of violence in that area has been reduced by about 80 percent, the admiral said.

However Clifton remains humble, stating he could not have done it without the people he serves with.

“The members of the (military police) unit I served with are the real heroes and they deserve all the credit,” said Clifton in the release. “I am unimaginably honored to see combat with such a tremendous group of heroes. It is to them I owe all the accolades and honors.”

Clifton grew up in Slidell, La., but has family on his mother’s side living in the Picayune area, he said.