Peters, Stabenow, Dingell Introduce Bicameral Bill to Rename Ann Arbor VA Facility after Ypsilanti Medal of Honor Recipient

Lt. Colonel Kettles Received Medal of Honor in 2016 for Heroic Service During Vietnam War

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Gary Peters (MI) and Debbie Stabenow (MI) and U.S. Representative Debbie Dingell (MI-12) today introduced bicameral legislation that would rename the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC) in Ann Arbor after Lieutenant Colonel Charles S. Kettles. Lieutenant Colonel Kettles, a lifelong resident of Ypsilanti who passed away in January of 2019, served in the Vietnam War as an Army helicopter commander and was awarded the Medal of Honor in 2016 for leading a rescue operation that saved 44 soldiers.

“Lieutenant Colonel Kettles’ heroism and commitment to service made him an inspiration both in the Armed Forces and across Michigan,” said Senator Peters, a former Lieutenant Commander in the U.S Navy Reserve and a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “I’m honored to join my colleagues in introducing this legislation, which would ensure Lieutenant Colonel Kettles will always be remembered for his bravery and steadfast commitment to ensuring that no man was left behind.”

“Decades ago, Lieutenant Colonel Kettles courageously went back into enemy territory to save the lives of 44 of his fellow servicemen. Renaming the Ann Arbor VA hospital in his honor would be a fitting tribute for a hometown hero. We are forever grateful for his service to our country,” said Senator Stabenow. 

“LTC Kettles was a true hero and renaming the Ann Arbor VA honors his courage and valor in saving the lives of many of his fellow servicemen,” said Dingell. “LTC Kettles’ actions went above and beyond the call of duty and his commitment represent the highest values of the United States military. After years of hard work by his friends and family, his local community, those he served with, he finally was awarded the Medal of Honor he deserved for the dozens he saved in Vietnam. They came home because of his selflessness. A son of Ypsilanti and Washtenaw County, renaming the VA will keep his spirit alive and inspire future generations.”

“On behalf of our entire family I want to thank VA Ann Arbor, Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 310, and our Congressional delegation for this great effort to honor our father,” said Mike Kettles, Lieutenant Colonel Kettles’ son. “He would be truly humbled to know the efforts that are being made to rename the VA on his behalf. He frequently used that facility for his health care and always spoke in glowing terms about the quality of the medical staff, technicians and administrative personnel there.”

“The Veterans of Foreign Wars, Department of Michigan is proud to support the renaming of the Ann Arbor VA Medical Center after Lieutenant Colonel Charles S. Kettles,” said VFW State Commander Scott Gloger. “Colonel Kettles’ actions in Vietnam saved the lives of fellow U.S. service members, earning him the Nation’s greatest honor for gallantry in combat, the Medal of Honor. We hope the renaming of this facility can begin to serve as a thank you to him and his family for the incredible sacrifices he has made to this country. The VFW applauds Senator Peters for introducing this piece of legislation, and we look forward to working with him and the rest of Michigan’s Congressional Delegation to ensure this bill is signed into law.”

“I am honored to offer our endorsement for the naming of the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in honor of Lieutenant Colonel Charles S. Kettles, United States Army (Retired),” said Edward Hirsch, Chairman of the Commanders Group of Congressionally Chartered Veterans Organizations of the State of Michigan. “I can think of no individual who more represents the ideals of our Nation and the devotion of one Soldier for his comrades-in-arms. The 2016 award of the Nation’s highest honor—the Congressional Medal of Honor—to Lieutenant Colonel Kettles is an eternal testament to this man and his accomplishments and sacrifices for others on the field of battle. His dedication to America’s Veterans after his retirement is a model for all of us. Time shall not dim the glory of his deeds."

In May of 1967, Lieutenant Colonel Kettles led three rescue flights into enemy territory to deliver supplies, reinforcements and to evacuate wounded airborne soldiers who had been ambushed by Northern Vietnamese forces. After Kettles was informed during the middle of his final flight that eight soldiers remained on the ground, he immediately returned without any support to rescue the remaining men. All told, his actions saved the lives of 40 soldiers and 4 crewmembers from the 176th Aviation Company. Peters also helped pass legislation in 2015 that made Lieutenant Colonel Kettles eligible for consideration of the Medal of Honor.