Peters Statement on Lt. Colonel Kettles, of Ypsilanti, Being Awarded Medal of Honor by President Obama

WASHINGTON, DC - U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI), a former Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve, today released the following statement applauding an announcement from the White House that President Obama will award Lt. Colonel (ret.) Charles S. Kettles, of Ypsilanti, the Medal of Honor for his service in Vietnam on July 18th:

“Lieutenant Colonel Kettles heroically put his life on the line to save his fellow servicemembers, and I am thrilled that President Obama will be awarding him the Medal of Honor. 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. I was pleased to work with Congresswoman Dingell and Senator Stabenow to help ensure Lieutenant Colonel Kettles could be properly recognized for his service.”

Last year, Peters, along with Senator Debbie Stabenow (MI) and Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (MI-12) introduced legislation to allow Lt. Colonel Kettles to be awarded the Medal of Honor, following a request from the Ypsilanti Rotary Veterans History Project to review Lt. Colonel Kettles’ actions during the Vietnam War. Upon review, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter determined that then-Major Kettles’ actions merited the nation’s highest military honor, but because the statute of limitations has passed, Congressional action was required. The legislation, which was signed into law as part of the Fiscal Year 2016 government funding bill, waived the time limitation and paved the way for the President to make the final decision to award the Medal of Honor to Lt. Colonel Kettles.

On May 15, 1967, after an airborne infantry unit was ambushed in the Song Tra Cau riverbed in Vietnam by the North Vietnamese Army, then-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, 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 Lt. Colonel 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 in 2014 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 Lt. Colonel Kettles’ actions merited the Medal of Honor.