MLive/Ann Arbor News: Vietnam War veteran from Michigan to receive Medal of Honor
YPSILANTI, MI – President Barack Obama will award retired Lt. Col. Charles Kettles of Ypsilanti with the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry on July 18.
According to a release from the White House, Kettles is credited with saving the lives of 40 soldiers and four of his crew members:
"Lieutenant Colonel (Ret.) Kettles will receive the Medal of for his actions while serving as a Flight Commander assigned to 176th Aviation Company (Airmobile) (Light), 14th Combat Aviation Battalion, Americal Division. Then-Major Kettles distinguished himself in combat operations near Duc Pho, Republic of Vietnam, on May 15, 1967. He led a platoon of UH-1Ds to provide support to the 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, during an ambush by a battalion-sized enemy force. After leading several trips to the hot landing zone and evacuating the wounded, he returned, without additional aerial support, to rescue a squad-sized element of stranded soldiers pinned down by enemy fire."
It took an act of Congress to waive a rule stipulating the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military honor, be awarded within five years of the heroic act. The Medal of Honor is awarded by Congress to members of the armed forces who distinguish themselves by risking their lives beyond the call of duty.
U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Dearborn) and Michigan's U.S. senators Gary Peters (Democrat) and Debbie Stabenow (Democrat) introduced the legislation in November 2015. It was included in the fiscal year 2016 government funding bill which was signed in December 2015.
The announcement Tuesday was the culmination of a five-year grassroots effort involving the Kettles family, the Ypsilanti Rotary Veterans History Project, and the offices of former U.S. Congressman John Dingell and U.S. Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, the congresswoman said in a press release.
"We need to tell the good stories of the Vietnam War and recognize the true patriots who refused to give up or leave a man behind. Charlie Kettles is one such patriot, and I am pleased that nearly 50 years later, with the award of the Medal of Honor, his contributions to our country will be properly honored," she said.
U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., said in a press release that he also was thrilled that Kettles would be recognized for putting his life on the line for others.
"Lieutenant Colonel Kettles' steadfast determination to leave no servicemember behind exemplified the values of honor and service that makes our country's military the finest in the world," he said.
Kettles, who attended Eastern Michigan University and later established its aviation management program, shared his story of the ordeal with The Ann Arbor News in October. He could not be immediately reached for comment Tuesday.
By: Darcie Moran
Source: MLive/Ann Arbor News
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