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Ann Arbor News/MLive: Bill would let Ypsilanti veteran receive Medal of Honor for daring rescue of soldiers

Forty-eight years after Major Charles S. Kettles completed a daring rescue of eight soldiers stranded on a battlefield in Vietnam, he's a step closer to receiving the U.S. military's highest honor for his bravery.

U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Dearborn) and Michigan's U.S. senators Gary Peters (Democrat) and Debbie Stabenow (Democrat) Friday introduced legislation to allow Kettles to be awarded the Medal of Honor.

The legislation waives the customary rule stipulating that the Medal of Honor must be awarded within five years of a heroic act. If Congress passes the bill, the final decision will be up to the president.

"Major Kettles' courage and dedication in the face of incredible odds is deserving of our nation's highest military honor," Dingell said. "Major Kettles went above and beyond the call of duty and saved a significant number of American lives. This legislation will ensure that 48 years after his service, his contributions to our country are properly honored."

On May 15, 1967, after an airborne infantry unit was ambushed in the Song Tra Cau riverbed in Vietnam by the North Vietnamese Army, Major Kettles led three flights into extremely hostile territory to deliver supplies, reinforcements, and evacuate the wounded and trapped. During the final flight, shortly after leaving the landing zone, Major Kettles was informed that eight soldiers remained on the ground.

Without hesitation or a second thought, Kettles, who had only one man aboard his UH-1D, turned around and swooped back into the mostly evacuated battlefield, providing dozens of North Vietnamese guns a large, easy, sitting target.

The soldiers sprinted toward and climbed aboard the suddenly overloaded and badly shot-up helicopter. After a few attempts, it lurched into the air while absorbing mortar rounds and enemy fire that pocked its fuselage.