Thursday, May 28, 2009

Medal of Honor

Courage is a latent virtue. You never know you have it until you're tested.

The Medal of Honor is the highest military decoration, awarded by the U.S. government, that can be bestowed on a member of the United States Armed Services. It is often awarded posthumously.

The recipient must distinguish himself -- "conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States."

The Vietnam War ended on April 30, 1975. The USA had sent military advisors to the region in 1950, attempting to prevent a communist takeover of South Vietnam. Our involvement escalated in the early 1960s, and combat units were deployed beginning in 1965.

Vietnam -- November, 14, 1965

A U.S. Infantry unit, outnumbered 8 to 1, was under heavy fire in the Ia Drang Valley. The enemy fire was so intense, the Infantry Commander ordered the Medi-Vac helicopters to stop coming in.

Not to worry -- Capt. Ed Freeman, Company A, 229th Assault Helicopter Battery, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) is coming for you.

Capt. Freeman was not Medi-Vac – it was not his job to evacuate the wounded.

Instead, after the Medi-Vacs were ordered to avoid the landing zone, Capt. Freeman ignored the Infantry Commander's concerns and flew his Huey helicopter down into the hostile machine gun fire.

Capt. Freeman landed his chopper and sat there under heavy gunfire until 2 or 3 wounded soldiers were loaded on board. Then he flew up and out, transporting the wounded to a field hospital.

And he kept coming back, 13 more times, picking up some 30 wounded soldiers in all and transporting them to safety.

The Battle of Ia Drang was one of the first major battles of the Vietnam Conflict. The U.S. casualties were 234 dead and 242 wounded.

Medal of Honor Recipient, Capt. Ed Freeman, died on March 25th, 2009, at the age of 80, in Boise, Idaho.

Rest in Peace.

United States Armed Forces casualties in the Vietnam War:

58,209 killed in action
303,635 wounded in action
1,948 missing in action
246 medal of honor recipients

Quote for the Day – "Courage is being scared to death... and saddling up anyway." John Wayne

Bret Burquest is an award-winning columnist and author of four novels. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and served in the U.S. Army in 1966-1968. His blogs appear on several websites, including

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