Medal of Honor Awarded to Vietnam Veteran Charles Kettles

By Sherley Boursiquot, Epoch Times

Retired Lieutenant Colonel Charles Kettles, who served in the Army during the Vietnam War, was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Barack Obama on July 18 for saving the lives of more than 40 soldiers.

Meritorious conduct deserving of the award, which is the nation’s highest military honor for valor, “must involve great personal bravery or self-sacrifice so conspicuous as to clearly distinguish the individual above his or her comrades and must have involved risk of life,” according to a White House statement.

Kettles, a UH-1 helicopter commander, led a flight of six helicopters carrying reinforcements to U.S. soldiers, and to carry off wounded personnel near Duc Pho, Republic of Vietnam, in May 1967, according to the U.S. Army’s website. As the flight prepared to land, several soldiers were hit and killed before they could board the helicopters.

Kettles led the wounded out of the battle area and back to the staging area to pick up additional reinforcements. He then went back to the battlefield—knowing full well the danger he would face—to save the lives of 40 soldiers and four of his own crew members—without benefit of artillery or tactical aircraft support.

US President Barack Obama points to cameras after presenting the Medal of Honor to retired US Army Lt. Colonel Charles Kettles during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House on July 18, 2016 in Washington, DC. Lt. Colonel Kettles was awarded the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry while serving in Vietnam. / AFP / MANDEL NGAN        (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. President Barack Obama points to cameras after presenting the Medal of Honor to retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Charles Kettles during a ceremony in Washington, DC, on July 18, 2016. Lt. Col. Kettles was awarded the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry while serving in Vietnam. (MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

The Army said his helicopter was hit by a mortar round that damaged the tail boom, a main rotor blade, shattered both front windshields, and the chin bubble. Additionally, rifle and machine gun fire bombarded the helicopter.

“In spite of the severe damage to his helicopter, Kettles once more skillfully guided his heavily damaged aircraft to safety,” stated the Army website, noting Kettles’s “complete disregard for his own safety” during the mission. “Without his courageous actions and superior flying skills, the last group of soldiers and his crew would never have made it off the battlefield.”

A military aide holds the Medal of Honor during a presentation ceremony for retired US Army Lt. Colonel Charles Kettles in the East Room of the White House on July 18, 2016 in Washington, DC. Lt. Colonel Kettles was awarded the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry while serving in Vietnam. / AFP / MANDEL NGAN        (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
A military aide holds the Medal of Honor during a presentation ceremony for retired US Army Lt. Col. Charles Kettles in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., on July 18, 2016. (MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

“I didn’t do it by myself,” Kettles, 86, said in a video released by the U.S. Army. “There were some 74 pilots and crew members involved in this whole mission that day. So it’s not just me.”

President Obama indicated great pride in Kettles’s bravery, saying on Twitter, “44 men came home because Chuck Kettles believed that we leave no man behind. That’s America at our best.”

“It should be a creed for all of us,” Obama said at the White House ceremony. “This is a country that’s never finished in its mission to improve, to do better, to learn from our history, to work to form a more perfect union. And at a time when, let’s face it, we’ve had a couple of tough weeks, for us to remember that goodness and decency of the American people and the way we can all look out for each other, even when times are tough, even when the odds are against us, what a wonderful inspiration.”

Retired US Army Lt. Colonel Charles Kettles is seen after receiveing the Medal of Honor during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House on July 18, 2016 in Washington, DC. Lt. Colonel Kettles was awarded the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry while serving in Vietnam. / AFP / MANDEL NGAN        (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Retired US Army Lt. Colonel Charles Kettles after receiving the Medal of Honor during a ceremony at the White House in Washington, D.C., on July 18, 2016.  (MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
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