“All I remember is, ‘We’re going to get to my brothers,’” Shurer later recalled. “I don’t remember gunfire. I don’t remember obstacles.”
Shurer, then a member of the Army’s 3rd Special Forces Group, is credited with braving enemy fire repeatedly during a six-hour battle on April 6, 2008, in the mountains of Nuristan province. He continued to fight, even after enemy marksmen hit him once in the helmet and once in the arm with gunfire. At times, he used his body to shield wounded fellow soldiers from harm.
Shurer would go on to receive the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award for valor in combat, on Oct. 1, 2018.
On Thursday, he died at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington after a three-year battle with lung cancer. He was 41.
The Army veteran leaves behind a wife, Miranda; two sons, Tyler and Cameron; all of Burke, Va.; and his parents, Ronald and Fabiola Shurer of Lebanon, Pa.
He also leaves a legacy of service and grace in facing cancer, as his fellow veterans and service members described in moving tributes.
“He was an inspiration to me,” said Florent Groberg, a fellow Army veteran and Medal of Honor recipient, in a message to The Washington Post. “He never let cancer take away his smile and his mission to support our community. We all know about his military exploits, but it was the husband, the father and the friend that made Ron unique. He never showed his pain — only his love and strength. We lost an exceptional person but his legacy will live on forever. I will miss him.”
Groberg said Shurer never complained to him about his fight with cancer. He “just at times said it was kicking his ass, but he was working through it.”
But Shurer did choose to fight his battle with cancer publicly, sharing frequent updates on social media as he went through chemotherapy and other forms of treatment.
“We don’t want [cancer] to dominate my story,” Shurer said in the interview. “But at the same time, I think there’s a lot of value in just sharing these things that are a little bit scary, a little bit nerve-racking. It affects so many people’s lives out there.”
Shurer was born in Fairbanks, Alaska, the son of two U.S. airmen. He went to high school in Puyallup, Wash., while his parents were stationed at McChord Air Force Base and earned a degree in business economics at Washington State University, according to the Army.
The September 2001 terrorist attacks, which occurred while he was working on a master’s degree at the same university, and changed his path, he later recalled in a speech at the Pentagon after receiving the Medal of Honor. He joined the Army in 2002.
“We stood up together, and we made a difference," he said. "That’s why I joined: To try and make a difference.”
Shurer deployed twice to Afghanistan and left the Army in 2009. He joined the Secret Service, working first in Arizona and then beginning in 2014 as a member of the force’s counterassault team, which works to prevent and stop attacks against the president of the United States.
Shurer initially was awarded a Silver Star, the nation’s third-highest award for combat valor, for his actions in the Battle of Shok Valley. In 2016, a Pentagon review of recent combat decorations determined he and another soldier in the battle, Matthew Williams, both deserved the higher award.
As Williams received the Medal of Honor last fall, Shurer said anyone who receives the decoration “has to go through an evolution” with how they handle the attention and use it to spotlight service members who are “still out there.”
He relied on the counsel of older Medal of Honor recipients, he said. He recalled asking, for example, whether he should attend a military funeral, and if so, would it be appropriate to wear the medal to it.
“Am I going to be a distraction? Am I going to be a benefit?" he said. "I don’t think anybody day one is ready for that.”
In recent posts on Instagram, Shurer described having fluid drained from his right lung and having difficulty breathing. He posted Wednesday that he had been unconscious for the previous week and that doctors were “going to try and take it out in a couple hours."
"They can’t tell me if it will work,” he wrote, signing the post “All my love Miranda, Cameron, Tyler.”
He died the following day.
The Army’s top officer, Gen. James McConville, wrote on Twitter on Thursday night that Shurer was one of his heroes.
“I’m heartbroken at Ron’s passing. He was a humble warrior who put others before himself,” he wrote. “I join every member of the Army team in wishing the Shurer Family my deepest sympathies.”