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In Advance of Veterans Day, Dingell, Peters & Stabenow Introduce Legislation to Award Long-Overdue Medal of Honor to Ypsilanti Vietnam Veteran

WASHINGTON, DC – Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (MI-12) and U.S. Senators Gary Peters (MI) and Debbie Stabenow (MI) today introduced legislation that would allow Major Charles S. Kettles of Ypsilanti to be awarded the Medal of Honor. The bill was introduced following a request from the Ypsilanti Rotary Veterans History Project to review Major Kettles’ actions during the Vietnam War. Upon review, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter determined that Major Kettles’ actions merited the nation’s highest military honor, but because the statute of limitations has passed, Congressional action is required. The legislation waives the time limitation and allows the President to make the final decision.

“Major Kettles’ courage and dedication in the face of incredible odds is deserving of our nation’s highest military honor,” Congresswoman 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.”

“Under heavy enemy fire, Major Kettles selflessly put his life on the line to save his fellow servicemembers, leaving no one behind,” said Senator Peters, a former Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve. “Major Kettles’ actions exemplified the valor, grit, and honor that makes our military the best in the world. It is my honor to join Congresswoman Dingell in helping to ensure Major Kettles is properly recognized for his devotion to our country and commitment to his fellow soldiers.” 

“Decades ago, Michigan’s own Major Kettles courageously went back into enemy territory to save the lives of 44 of his fellow servicemen,” said Senator Stabenow. “This bill will help make sure Major Kettles is awarded the Medal of Honor without delay and will recognize the true selflessness and bravery of his actions in Vietnam.”

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 hesitating, he returned on his own, without regard for his own safety and with no other support, to rescue the remaining men. All totaled on that day, his actions saved the lives of 40 soldiers and 4 crew members from the 176th Aviation Company after their helicopter was destroyed.

For his voluntary action above and beyond the call of duty, Major Kettles was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross in 1968. In 2012, a local campaign was launched by William Vollano, a coordinator with the Veterans History Project, and Major Kettles’ family to upgrade his award to the Medal of Honor. A number of men from his company and the 101st Airborne Division sent letters validating his heroic actions, and last year former Congressman John D. Dingell sent a letter to the Secretary of Defense asking for reconsideration of the United States of America’s highest military honor. In reviewing the facts, Secretary Carter agreed that Major Kettles’ actions merited the Medal of Honor.