Kentucky Air National Guard special operations Airman earns Air Force Cross

Air Force Staff Sergeant receives Air Force Cross

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - The Air Force Cross is one of the highest honors a member of the Air Force can receive.

One local staff sergeant earned his in a special recognition ceremony Friday afternoon.

In August 2017, Staff Sgt. Daniel Keller was part of a team that embarked on a clearance mission in Afghanistan.

After 15 hours of continuous fighting, their assault force struck an explosive device. Four people died and 31 were wounded.

Keller was injured, but somehow returned fire and helped move 13 critically wounded casualties to a helicopter landing.

“We had been fighting all day and then for it to end the way it did, with all of your friends that you had been deployed with for the past five-plus months, to have a catastrophic event like that with that many of your close friends wounded, looking for help, and trying to find out what happened and where is the fire coming from,” Keller said. “Just thinking about those guys, a lot of them ended up being medically retired just due to the injuries from that day, I was very fortunate to be able to return to active duty.”

Since the Sept. 11 terror attacks, only 10 people have received this award. Keller is the second from his unit.

“This is our highest medal that we award or that someone earns, and certainly with this case, in all cases, absolutely earned, short of the congressional Medal of Honor,” Air Force Chief Of Staff Gen. David L Goldfein said. “So the Air Force Cross is the highest medal the air force chief or the service secretary can award, and it’s for extraordinary courage under fire, and when you read the citation and you see what Dan and his team did, they make the impossible look possible.”

Keller is still active duty and working full time.

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