A Camp Pendleton Marine who flew his helicopter for 10 straight hours through oil-blackened skies and enemy groundfire in the Persian Gulf will be decorated with the Navy Cross today, the Navy's second-highest combat award for heroism.
Lt. Col. Michael M. Kurth is credited with helping destroy 70 Iraqi armored vehicles as he maneuvered under high-voltage power lines and dodged anti-aircraft fire.
Kurth, 42, said in a telephone interview Thursday that he was unsure why he had been singled out to receive the honor, the second Navy Cross awarded for Gulf War combat.
"I was just doing what I get paid to do, what the taxpayers pay me to do," said Kurth, who will receive the cross in a Washington ceremony. "I guess I just wish there was a better way to recognize everybody else."
His superiors say Kurth led groups of armed gunships to the aid of U.S. forces 10 times in a maneuver that ultimately led to the collapse of Iraqi defenses.