Crouched behind a concrete barrier, Staff Sgt. Jimmy Moriarty waited for his assailant. Just minutes before, a Jordanian soldier, armed with an M16 rifle, had gunned down Moriarty's two fellow Green Berets at a security gate at King Faisal Air Base in Jordan.
"My son sees him coming and stands up in open view and opens fire at him with his Glock," said Moriarty's father James, describing a surveillance video that shows Jordanian 1st Sgt. Marik al-Tuwayha then shooting the young Green Beret, mortally wounding him.
Moriarty's bravery gave a fourth Green Beret enough time to flank the gunman and empty his pistol into his side, ending the murderous Nov. 4, 2016, attack.
More than four years later, two Green Beret generals traveled to Houston, Texas, on Wednesday to honor Moriarty's courage by presenting his family with the Silver Star.
"Today marks a special day of the very best we have in our nation," said Maj. Gen. Miguel Correa, who presented the nation's third-highest award for valor to Moriarty's family in a livestream video of the ceremony. "If you were to call him a hero, I would venture that he would disagree and tell you that he was doing what he was supposed to do. ... He would tell you that he was doing the right thing despite being outgunned and all the odds stacked against him.
"This nation will always be indebted to Staff Sgt. Jimmy Moriarty," he added.
In 2016, Correa, then a colonel, was the investigating officer on the 15-6 investigation into the deaths of Moriarty, Sgt. 1st Class Matthew C. Lewellen and Staff Sgt. Kevin J. McEnroe.
On Nov. 4, the three Americans were in a four-vehicle convoy attempting to enter the gate at the air base, about 150 miles south of the capital, Amman. Another group of U.S. vehicles had earlier passed without incident.
When the second group of vehicles approached, a guard raised the gate and al-Tuwayha opened fire with his M16 at close range, killing McEnroe and Lewellen almost instantly, James Moriarty told Military.com, describing a video of the scene.
Moriarty watched his son and another soldier try to communicate with the Jordanian soldier in the video, but the gunman continued to shoot at them. Watching his son then stand and face the gunman was the bravest act he had ever seen, he said.
"I have the single most unique perspective of that video because I am his father and I have been in combat," said Moriarty, a former U.S. Marine helicopter door gunner who served three tours in Vietnam.
"I loved Jimmy beyond my ability to describe, but even setting that aside ... I recognized his leadership and his quick action and his protection of the other Green Beret that survived. But those last moments of his life -- watching him willingly, deliberately, intentionally risking his life to save the other Green Beret was as heroic as anything I have ever known."
A military court in Jordan convicted al-Tuwayha in July 2017 in the shooting deaths of the three Green Berets and sentenced him to life in prison with hard labor.
But the families of the slain Green Berets claim that a life sentence in Jordan typically lasts 20 years. In July, they appealed to U.S. lawmakers to call on the king of Jordan to publicly apologize for the murders and explain why his country harbors terrorists.
Moriarty's father credited former Acting Secretary of Defense Chris Miller and his staff for working to approve his son's overdue Silver Star. Miller, a former member of 5th Special Forces Group, retired on Jan. 20.
Military.com reached out to the Pentagon to inquire why it took four years to present the award to Moriarty but did not receive an answer.
Brig. Gen. Kevin Leahy, Moriarty's former commander, said the young Green Beret epitomized the Special Forces motto "De oppresso liber," which he translated to mean "liberate the oppressed."
He described it as a "calling for all Green Berets."
"It was this calling that brought Moriarty to the 5th Special Forces Group," Leahy said at the ceremony. "That calling put Jimmy in harm's way four years ago. Jimmy stood up to the oppressor ... and paid the ultimate price. He did it with tremendous valor. Surprised and outgunned, he stood toe to toe with the oppressor."
Jimmy Moriarty's sister, Becky, said she was incredibly grateful that her younger brother is now recognized for his bravery.
"I may be his older sister, but to this day I still look up to him," she said during the ceremony. "Jimmy was by far my most favorite person on this planet and, when he passed away, I made a list of traits that made Jimmy, Jimmy.
"He was trustworthy, undeniably funny, kind, unassuming, annoyingly smart, friendly -- he could talk to literally anyone. ... Him being gone obviously leaves a giant hole to fill," she said.
After some reflection, Moriarty's father said that it is important that his son was recognized for doing the right thing in a terrible situation.
"We all need people to look up to, we need people to respect, we need to emulate," James Moriarty said. "We need heroes because heroes make us better people."
-- Matthew Cox can be reached at email@example.com.