EXCLUSIVE: In a stunning reversal, the U.S. Army decided late Thursday to retain a decorated Green Beret it had planned to kick out after he physically confronted a local Afghan commander accused of raping a boy over the course of many days.
Sgt 1st Class Charles Martland, confirmed the Army's decision to retain him when reached by Fox News, who has been covering the story in depth for the past eight months and first broke the story of the Army's decision in August to kick out Martland over the incident, which occurred in northern Afghanistan in 2011.
"I am real thankful for being able to continue to serve," said Martland when reached on the telephone by Fox News. "I appreciate everything Congressman Duncan Hunter and his Chief of Staff, Joe Kasper did for me."
As first reported by Fox News, while deployed to Kunduz Province, Afghanistan, Martland and his team leader confronted a local police commander in 2011 accused of raping an Afghan boy and beating his mother. When the man laughed off the incident, they shoved him to the ground.
Martland and his team leader were later removed from the base, and eventually sent home from Afghanistan. The U.S. Army has not confirmed the specifics of Martland's separation from service citing privacy reasons, but a “memorandum of reprimand” from October 2011 obtained by Fox News makes clear that Martland was criticized by the brass for his intervention after the alleged rape. Asked for comment in September 2015, an Army spokesman reiterated, "the U.S. Army is unable to confirm the specifics of his separation due to the Privacy Act."
An Army spokesman said Thursday that Martland's status has been changed, allowing him to stay in the Army in a statement to Fox News.
"In SFC Martland’s case, the Army Board for Correction of Military Records determination modified a portion of one of SFC Martland’s evaluation reports and removed him from the QMP list, which will allow him to remain in the Army," said Lt. Col. Jerry Pionk.
Martland's former Special Forces team leader, now out of the Army and living in New York said the Army is a better place with Martland in its ranks.
"This is not just a great victory for SFC Martland and his family- I’m just as happy that he can continue to serve our country and inspire his peers, subordinates and officers to be better soldiers. Charles makes every soldier he comes in contact with better and the Army is undoubtedly a better organization with SFC Martland still in its ranks," said Martland's former team leader Danny Quinn when reached by Fox News Thursday.
Quinn is a 2003 graduate of West Point.
"I am thrilled beyond words that my brother is able to continue his career of service to country. The relentless defense of Charles as a soldier and a man of integrity by his friends, family and colleagues sent a clear message that abhorrent decision making made in the interest of self promotion and lacking common sense will not be tolerated. Charles is where he belongs. He is an elite warrior. He belongs on the front lines. Our enemies last vision in this life should be of Martland's face. They have earned that right," said Casey a former Special Forces teammate of Martland's who asked that only his first name be used due to the sensitive of his current work.
The American Center for Law and Justice, who was involved with a writing campaign to save keep Martland in the Army, called the decision a “significant victory."
“The decision by the Army to retain this hero is long overdue and represents a significant victory for SFC Martland,” said Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel of the ACLJ. “Justice has been served. The U.S. military has a moral obligation to stop child sexual abuse and exonerate SFC Martland for defending a child from rape. The Army finally took the corrective action needed and this is not only a victory for SFC Martland, but for the American people as well.”
"The Army did the right thing and we won -- the American people, won," said Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., a Marine veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, in a phone interview with Fox News. "Martland is who we want out there."
Lawmakers were not the only ones who supported Martland's case.
One famous Hollywood actor also weighed in.
Harvey Keitel of "Pulp Fiction" and "Reservoir Dogs" fame also asked the Army to reconsider their decision.
Martland grew up south of Boston, in Milton, Mass. An all-state football player in high school, he set his sights on playing college football after graduating in 2001. Martland went for the Florida State University team, which just finished a season ranked fourth in the nation.
He made the team, impressing legendary head coach Bobby Bowden and famed defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews. Still, he often remained on the sidelines.
When Pat Tillman, a former NFL football player who volunteered for the Army Rangers, was killed in Afghanistan in 2004, he saw Tillman's sacrifice as motivation to apply for another elite program.
Martland dropped out of college and graduated in 2006 from Special Forces Qualification Course, one of the U.S. military's toughest training programs. Over the years he became a jumpmaster, combat diver and sniper.
After a deployment to Iraq in 2008, he deployed to Afghanistan in January 2010 as part of a 12-man unit. He and his team found themselves fighting large numbers of Taliban militants in volatile Kunduz Province.
In 2014, three years after being sent home from Afghanistan, Martland was runner-up Special Warfare Training Group Instructor of the Year from a pool of 400 senior leaders in Special Forces.
FoxNews.com's Judson Berger contributed to this report.
Lucas Tomlinson is the Pentagon and State Department producer for Fox News Channel. You can follow him on Twitter: @LucasFoxNews