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MSgt. Matthew Williams

Distinguished Alumnus - Class of 2012

Picking this year’s Distinguished Alumnus may have been the easiest decision the ASU Alumni Association has ever faced.

MSgt. Matthew Williams U.S. Army Master Sgt. Matthew Williams was awarded the Medal of Honor during a White House ceremony on Oct. 30, 2019. And just like that, he became the first Medal of Honor recipient in the Ram Family and an obvious choice for Distinguished Alumnus status.

The Medal of Honor is the highest U.S. military decoration and is awarded for gallantry and bravery in combat at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty. Williams was honored for his actions during a mission in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan that would later be called the “Battle of Shok Valley.”

“It is an honor for me to receive this Medal of Honor on behalf of the regiment and help get the story out about what we’re actually doing and what brave actions people are capable of.”*

The official White House account states: “On April 6, 2008, while serving as a member of a Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha 3336, Special Operations Task Force-33, assault element, then-Sergeant Williams exposed himself to insurgent fire multiple times while rescuing other members of the assault element and evacuating numerous casualties. In the face of rocket-propelled grenade, sniper, and machine gun fire, Sergeant Williams led an Afghan Commando element across a fast-moving, ice-cold, and waist-deep river to fight its way up a terraced mountain to the besieged lead element of the assault force.

Sergeant Williams then set up a base of fire that the enemy was not able to overcome. When his Team Sergeant was wounded by sniper fire, Sergeant Williams exposed himself to enemy fire to come to his aid and to move him down the sheer mountainside to the casualty collection point. Sergeant Williams then braved small arms fire and climbed back up the cliff to evacuate other injured soldiers and repair the team’s satellite radio.”

Williams was just the 14th Medal of Honor recipient from the war in Afghanistan and the 10th from the U.S. Army. He is also one of the only recipients still on active duty, as he is currently assigned to Fort Bragg, N.C.

A native of Boerne, Williams earned his ASU criminal justice degree in 2012. He and his wife, Kate, have a son, Nolan.

*See Williams’ personal account of the mission