(CNN) – It was a firefight in northern Iraq against 100 ISIS fighters that lasted more than two hours. When it was over, Navy SEAL Charles Keating was dead on a tour of duty that was not supposed to involve combat.
Hundreds of friends and family gathered to remember him He was awarded the Silver Star, the nation’s third highest citation for valor, but not for the battle north of Mosula that killed him, but for a different fight two months earlier. One that was not disclosed until after his death.
That March 4th morning, Keating’s SEAL team and local Kurdish forces were attacked by more than 100 ISIS fighters. The initial assault was pushed back.
Keating kept up a counter attack running back and forth along the front lines to stop the enemy advance. Exposing himself to automatic weapons, mortars and rocket propelled grenades. When a suicide car bomber approached his position, his team attacked with sniper and rocket fire.
Then on May 3rd, it happened all over again. ISIS assembling a large attack force again in northern Iraq. Keating’s unit was behind the front lines as advisors with local Kurdish forces.
At 7:30 am navy seals and local forces are attacked by more than 100 ISIS fighters who charge the front lines with bulldozers, trucks and weapons. At 7:50 the Americans call for help. Keating and about 20 SEALs arrived quickly. The seals moved to each side of the front line.
Military sources tell CNN initial battlefield reports describe fighting so intense ammunition was running low. Then Keating’s weapon malfunctioned. He went to a nearby vehicle for a new weapon and more ammunition. Now equipped with a sniper rifle he climbed on top of building and began firing at ISIS, when he was hit.
His death, and the two firefights, a stark reminder u-s troops in Iraq and Syria are in combat more than the military discloses. Former navy SEAL Jeffrey Eggers says there are new dangers for special operations forces, “What’s new in this environment is that the advisory mission, even though it’s not a combat mission–in other words, they’re not supposed to be doing the majority of the fighting themselves–is closer to where the fighting’s taking place.”