Monday, October 6, 2014

442nd Infantry Medal Of Honor Recipient Honored at National Infantry Museum

Parade Field Seeded with Soil from WWII Battlefield

Columbus, Georgia – September 22, 2014: As the United States Army’s newest Soldiers complete their initial training at Fort Benning’s Maneuver Center of Excellence, they will march across soil fought for by Daniel Inouye, an Infantryman who earned the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions during World War II. Inouye went on to become one of the U.S. Senate’s most highly regarded and longest serving members before his death in December 2012.

The parade field at the National Infantry Museum in Columbus/Fort Benning, Georgia, was dedicated to Inouye in a ceremony September 12. The dedication was held in conjunction with the graduation of two companies of brand new Soldiers.

The Maneuver Center’s Commanding General, Maj. Gen. Scott Miller, talked to the graduates about the significance of the event. "You will forever be linked with a great Soldier, a courageous Soldier, a heroic Soldier and a great statesman who I wish could be here today," Miller said.

Inouye was born in Honolulu. His grandparents had emigrated from Japan to work in Hawaii’s sugar cane fields. The young Inouye enlisted in the U.S. Army at age 17, just after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. He earned the Medal of Honor for his actions in combat near San Terenzo, Italy, in April 1945 while serving with the 442nd Infantry Regimental Combat Team. Then a second lieutenant, Inouye was shot while leading a charge on a machine gun nest. He kept moving toward the machine gun and managed to throw two grenades before a German-thrown grenade struck and shattered his right arm. Despite the serious wounds, he continued leading his platoon.

"By his gallant, aggressive tactics and by his indomitable leadership, Second Lieutenant Inouye enabled his platoon to advance through formidable resistance," his Medal of Honor citation said. The Medal was awarded in 2000 – 55 years after the incident – when it was determined that Inouye and 21 other Asian-Americans had been denied the award because of racial bias.

Later, Inouye became Hawaii’s first Congressman. He moved over to the Senate in 1963, and remained there until his death at age 88. He was the Senate pro tempore —the chamber's longest-serving member — and the person third in line to the presidency. He also chaired the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee at the time of his death.

It was in that appropriations committee role that Inouye first learned of plans to construct a new National Infantry Museum at Fort Benning, Georgia, long known as the “home of the Infantry.” He was one of the National Infantry’s Museum’s earliest champions. After a visit by Foundation leaders in 2003, Inouye convinced his colleagues in Congress to award a grant of $8.5 million for construction of the new museum. The grant propelled the museum toward its goal of raising $100 million for the new facility. General Colin Powell cut the ribbon on the museum in June 2009 and it is now considered one of the finest military museums in the world.

The newly named Inouye Field at the National Infantry Museum is the site of about 100 Infantry School graduations each year. At the dedication ceremony Sept. 12, four Soldiers spread soil that had been taken from the spot in Italy where Inouye refused to give up the fight. The four – Pvt. Derrick Tamanaha, Sgt. 1st Class Zachary Zuehlsdorf, Lt. Col. Daniel Austin and Pvt. Peter Heaukulani – all were born in Inouye’s home state of Hawaii, and two serve in the same unit as Inouye, the 442nd Infantry Regiment. Also at the event, a bronze plaque telling Inouye’s story was unveiled. The plaque is mounted to a granite pedestal at the entrance to the parade field. At every graduation going forward, newly minted Soldiers will learn of Inouye’s contributions and march across the sacred soil as they conduct their pass and review.

When the field was first dedicated in 2009, it was consecrated with soil from eight battlefields in Infantry history. Soil came from Redoubt Number 10 in Yorktown, where Alexander Hamilton fought, and from under a tree at the base of Burnside Bridge at Antietam. Samples were collected from the WW I battlefield at Soissons, France, and WWII’s Normandy beach. Soil from Corregidor required the Philippine ambassador’s permission. More samples came from Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. Each sample was spread by a present-day veteran of the battle or a descendant of one who fought there. Spreaders included descendants of Alexander Hamilton, Alvin York, and Theodore Roosevelt. Vietnam veterans General Hal Moore and the late Command Sergeant Major Basil Plumley also participated.

Granite markers holding clear containers of soil mark the spots where the soil was spread. The battles represented there are the same ones depicted on the museum’s signature Last 100 Yards exhibit.

The tribute to Daniel Inouye will be seen by hundreds of graduates every week, as well as the thousands of friends and family members who travel from across the country to celebrate their achievement.

The National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center at Patriot Park, a 200-acre tract linking Columbus, Georgia, and the Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, is the first world-class site to pay tribute to the U.S. Army Infantryman and those who fight alongside him. As the only interactive Army Museum in the United States, the museum showcases the contributions of the Infantry Soldier in every war fought by the U.S. by offering immersive participation and engaging visitors in the unique experiences of the Infantry Soldier. The complex also includes a parade field, memorial walk of honor, authentic World War II Company Street and 3-D IMAX® Theatre. For more information, visit

Monday, September 15, 2014

Americal Division Hero of Vietnam War Donald P. Sloat Awarded Medal of Honor

Army Command Sergeant Bennie Adkins Presented Medal of Honor for actions in Vietnam

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release
September 15, 2014
Remarks by the President at Presentation of the Medal of Honor to Command Sergeant Major Bennie G. Adkins and Specialist Four Donald Sloat

East Room
Specialist Donald Sloat

1:52 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon, and welcome to the White House.  More than four decades ago, in early 1970, an American squad in Vietnam set out on patrol.  They marched down a trail, past a rice paddy.  Shots rang out and splintered the bamboo above their heads.  The lead soldier tripped a wire -- a booby trap.  A grenade rolled toward the feet of a 20-year-old machine gunner.  The pin was pulled, and that grenade would explode at any moment.

A few years earlier, on the other side of the country, deep in the jungle, a small group of Americans were crouched on top of a small hill.  And it was dark, and they were exhausted; the enemy had been pursuing them for days.  And now they were surrounded, and the enemy was closing in on all sides.

Two discrete moments, but today we honor two American soldiers for gallantry above and beyond the call of duty at each of those moments:  Specialist Donald Sloat, who stood above that grenade, and Command Sergeant Major Bennie Adkins, who fought through a ferocious battle and found himself on that jungle hill. 
Nearly half a century after their acts of valor, a grateful nation bestows upon these men the highest military decoration –- the Medal of Honor.

Normally, this medal must be awarded within a few years of the action.  But sometimes even the most extraordinary stories can get lost in the fog of war or the passage of time.  Yet when new evidence comes to light, certain actions can be reconsidered for this honor, and it is entirely right and proper that we have done so.  And that is why we are here today. 

So before I go any further, I want to thank everyone present here today whose research and testimonies and persistence over so many years finally resulted in these two men deserving the recognition they so richly deserve.  I especially want to welcome members of the Medal of Honor Society, as well as two American families whose love and pride has never wavered.

Don Sloat grew up in the heart of Oklahoma in a town called Coweta.  And he grew big -- to over 6’4”.  He loved football, and played for a year at a junior college.  Then he decided to join the Army.  But when he went to enlist, he didn’t pass his physical because of high blood pressure.  So he tried again.  And again.  And again.  In all, he took the physical maybe seven times until he passed -- because Don Sloat was determined to serve his country. 

In Vietnam, Don became known as one of the most liked and reliable guys in his company.  Twice in his first months, his patrol was ambushed; both times, Don responded with punishing fire from his machine gun, leaving himself completely vulnerable to the enemy.  Both times, he was recognized for his bravery.  Or as Don put it in a letter home, “I guess they think [that] I’m really gung-ho or something.”  (Laughter.)  

And then one morning, Don and his squad set out on patrol, past that rice paddy, down that trail, when those shots rang out.  When the lead soldier’s foot tripped that wire and set off the booby trap, the grenade rolled right to Don’s feet.  And at that moment, he could have run.  At that moment, he could have ducked for cover.  But Don did something truly extraordinary -- he reached down and he picked that grenade up.  And he turned to throw it, but there were Americans in front of him and behind him -– inside the kill zone.  So Don held on to that grenade, and he pulled it close to his body.  And he bent over it.  And then, as one of the men said, “all of a sudden there was a boom.”  

The blast threw the lead soldier up against a boulder.  Men were riddled with shrapnel.  Four were medevaced out, but everyone else survived.  Don had absorbed the brunt of the explosion with his body.  He saved the lives of those next to him.  And today, we’re joined by two men who were with him on that patrol:  Sergeant William Hacker and Specialist Michael Mulheim.

For decades, Don’s family only knew that he was killed in action.  They’d heard that he had stepped on a landmine.  All those years, this Gold Star family honored the memory of their son and brother, whose name is etched forever on that granite wall not far from here.  Late in her life, Don’s mother, Evelyn, finally learned the full story of her son’s sacrifice.  And she made it her mission to have Don’s actions properly recognized. 

Sadly, nearly three years ago, Evelyn passed away.  But she always believed -- she knew -- that this day would come.  She even bought a special dress to wear to this ceremony.  We are honored that Don -- and his mom -- are represented here today by Don’s brother and sisters and their families.  On behalf of this American family, I’d ask Don’s brother, Dr. Bill Sloat, to come forward for the reading of the citation and accept the gratitude of our nation.

MILITARY AIDE:  The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, March 3, 1863, has awarded in the name of Congress the Medal of Honor to Specialist Four Donald P. Sloat, United States Army.

Specialist Four Donald P. Sloat distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a Machinegunner with Company D, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment, 196th Light Infantry Brigade, Americal Division, during combat operations against an armed enemy in the Republic of Vietnam on January 17, 1970.

On that morning, Specialist Four Sloat’s squad was conducting a patrol, serving as a blocking element in support of tanks and armored personnel carriers in the area.  As the squad moved up a small hill in file formation, the lead soldier tripped a wire attached to a hand grenade booby trap set up by enemy forces.  As the grenade rolled down the hill, Specialist Four Sloat knelt and picked up the grenade.  After initially attempting to throw the grenade, Specialist Four Sloat realized that detonation was imminent.  He then drew the grenade to his body and shielded his squad members from the blast, saving their lives. 

Specialist Four Sloat’s actions define the ultimate sacrifice of laying down his own life in order to save the lives of his comrades.  Specialist Four Donald P. Sloat’s extraordinary heroism and selflessness above and beyond the call of duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, Company D, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment, 196th Light Infantry Brigade, Americal Division and the United States Army.

[The medal is presented]  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  At this point, I’d like to ask Bennie Adkins to come join me on stage.

Now, let me just say the first thing you need to know is when Bennie and I met in the Oval Office, he asked if he could sign back up.  (Laughter.)  His lovely wife was not amused.  (Laughter.)

Most days, you can find Bennie at home down in Opelika, Alabama, tending his garden or his pontoon boat out on the lake.  He’s been married to Mary for 58 years.  He’s a proud father of five, grandfather of six; at 80 still going strong.  A couple years ago, he came here to the White House with his fellow veterans for a breakfast we had on Veterans Day.  He tells folk  he was the only person he knows who has spilled his dessert in the White House.  (Laughter.)  And I just have to correct you, that makes two of us.  (Laughter.)  I’ve messed up my tie.  I’ve messed up my pants.  (Laughter.)

But in the spring of 1966, Bennie was just 32 years old, on his second tour in Vietnam.  He and his fellow Green Berets were at an isolated camp along the Ho Chi Minh Trail.  A huge North Vietnamese force attacked, bombarding Bennie and his comrades with mortars and white phosphorus.  At a time, it was nearly impossible to move without being wounded or killed.  But Bennie ran into enemy fire again and again -- to retrieve supplies and ammo; to carry the wounded to safety; to man the mortar pit, holding off wave after wave of enemy assaults.  Three times, explosions blasted him out of that mortar pit, and three times, he returned. 

I have to be honest, in a battle and daring escape that lasted four days, Bennie performed so many acts of bravery we actually don’t have time to talk about all of them.  Let me just mention three. 

On the first day, Bennie was helping load a wounded American onto a helicopter.  A Vietnamese soldier jumped onto the helo trying to escape the battle, and aimed his weapon directly at the wounded soldier, ready to shoot.  Bennie stepped in, shielded his comrade, placing himself directly in the line of fire, helping to save his wounded comrade. 

At another point in the battle, Bennie and a few other soldiers were trapped in the mortar pit, covered in shrapnel and smoking debris.  Their only exit was blocked by enemy machine gun fire.  So Bennie thought fast.  He dug a hole out of the pit and snuck out the other side.  As another American escaped through that hole, he was shot in the leg.  An enemy soldier charged him, hoping to capture a live POW and Bennie fired, taking out that enemy and pulling his fellow American to safety.

By the third day of battle, Bennie and a few others had managed to escape into the jungle.  He had cuts and wounds all over his body, but he refused to be evacuated.  When a rescue helicopter arrived, Bennie insisted that others go instead.  And so, on the third night, Bennie, wounded and bleeding, found himself with his men up on that jungle hill, exhausted and surrounded, with the enemy closing in.  And after all they had been through, as if it weren’t enough, there was something more -- you can’t make this up -- there in the jungle, they heard the growls of a tiger. 

It turns out that tiger might have been the best thing that happened to Bennie in those -- during those days because, he says, “the North Vietnamese were more scared of that tiger than they were of us.”  (Laughter.)  So the enemy fled.  Bennie and his squad made their escape.  And they were rescued, finally, the next morning. 

In Bennie’s life, we see the enduring service of our men and women in uniform.  He went on to serve a third tour in Vietnam, a total of more than two decades in uniform.  After he retired, he earned his Master’s Degree -– actually not one, but two.  Opened up an accounting firm.  Taught adult education classes.  Became national commander of the Legion of Valor veterans organization.  So he has earned his retirement, despite what he says.  (Laughter.)  He’s living outside Auburn.  And, yes, he is a fan of the Auburn Tigers, although I did a poll of the family and there are some Crimson Tide fans here.  (Laughter.)  So there’s obviously some divisions.

But Bennie will tell you that he owes everything to the men he served with in Vietnam, especially the five who gave their lives in that battle.  Every member of his unit was killed or wounded.  Every single one was recognized for their service.  Today, we’re joined by some of the men who served with Bennie, including Major John Bradford, the soldier that Bennie shielded in that helicopter, and Major Wayne Murray, the soldier Bennie saved from being captured.  And I’d ask them and all our Vietnam veterans who are here today to please stand or raise your hand and to be recognized.  (Applause.)  

And now, I’d ask that the citation be read.

MILITARY AIDE:  The President of the United States, authorized by Act of Congress, March 3rd, 1863, has awarded in the name of Congress the Medal of Honor to Sergeant First Class Bennie G. Adkins, United States Army.

Sergeant First Class Bennie G. Adkins distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as an Intelligence Sergeant with Detachment A-102, 5th Special Forces Group, 1st Special Forces, during combat operations against an armed enemy at Camp A Shau, Republic of Vietnam, from March 9 to 12, 1966. 

When the camp was attacked by a large North Vietnamese and Viet Cong force in the early morning hours, Sergeant First Class Adkins rushed through intense enemy fire and manned a mortar position continually adjusting fire for the camp, despite incurring wounds as the mortar pit received several direct hits from enemy mortars.  Upon learning that several soldiers were wounded near the center of camp, he temporarily turned the mortar over to another soldier, ran through exploding mortar rounds, and dragged several comrades to safety. 

As the hostile fire subsided, Sergeant First Class Adkins exposed himself to sporadic sniper fire while carrying his wounded comrades to the camp dispensary.  When Sergeant First Class Adkins and his group of defenders came under heavy small arms fire from members of the Civilian Irregular Defense Group that had defected to fight with the North Vietnamese, he maneuvered outside the camp to evacuate a seriously wounded American and draw fire, all the while successfully covering the rescue.  When a resupply air drop landed outside of the camp perimeter, Sergeant First Class Adkins, again, moved outside of the camp walls to retrieve the much-needed supplies. 

During the early morning hours of March 10, 1966, enemy forces launched their main attack and within two hours, Sergeant First Class Adkins was the only man firing a mortar weapon.  When all mortar rounds were expended, Sergeant First Class Adkins began placing effective recoilless rifle fire upon enemy positions.  Despite receiving additional wounds from enemy rounds exploding on his position, Sergeant First Class Adkins fought off intense waves of attacking Viet Cong.  Sergeant First Class Adkins eliminated numerous insurgents with small arms fire after withdrawing to a communications bunker with several soldiers. Running extremely low on ammunition, he returned to the mortar pit, gathered vital ammunition and ran through intense fire back to the bunker.

After being ordered to evacuate the camp, Sergeant First Class Adkins and a small group of soldiers destroyed all signal equipment and classified documents, dug their way out of the rear of the bunker and fought their way out of the camp.  While carrying a wounded soldier to the extraction point he learned that the last helicopter had already departed.

Sergeant First Class Adkins led the group while evading the enemy until they were rescued by helicopter on March 12, 1966.  During the 38-hour battle and 48 hours of escape and evasion, fighting with mortars, machine guns, recoilless rifles, small arms, and hand grenades, it was estimated that Sergeant First Class Adkins had killed between 135 and 175 of the enemy while sustaining 18 different wounds to his body.

Sergeant First Class Adkins’ extraordinary heroism and selflessness above and beyond the call of duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, Detachment A-102, 5th Special Forces Group, 1st Special Forces and the United States Army.

[The medal is presented.]  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Over the decades, our Vietnam veterans didn’t always receive the thanks and respect they deserved.  That’s a fact.  But as we have been reminded again today, our Vietnam vets were patriots and are patriots.  You served with valor.  You made us proud.  And your service is with us for eternity.  So no matter how long it takes, no matter how many years go by, we will continue to express our gratitude for your extraordinary service.

May God watch over Don Sloat and all those who have sacrificed for our country.  May God keep safe those who wear our country’s uniform, and veterans like Bennie Adkins.  And may God continue to bless the United States of America.

At this point I’d ask our chaplain to return to the stage for the benediction. 

[The benediction is offered.]

THE PRESIDENT:  And at this point, I would welcome everybody to join the Sloat family and the Adkins family for a reception.  I hear the food is pretty good.  (Laughter.)  And once again, to all of you who serve and your families who serve along with them, the nation is grateful.  And your Commander-in-Chief could not be prouder. 

Thank you very much, everybody.  (Applause.)

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Medal of Honor ceremony Monday Sept. 15

We will publish the  full transcript of the White House Medal of Honor Ceremony  to be held on Monday, September 15 once it  is released by the White House.  The ceremony can be watched live (time to be announced  on Monday morning by the White House) on or on the Pentagon Channel.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Two Vietnam War Heroes To Receive Medal of Honor

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release
August 26, 2014


WASHINGTON, DC – On September 15, 2014, President Barack Obama will award the Medal of Honor to Army Command Sergeant Major Bennie G. Adkins and to Army Specialist Four Donald P. Sloat for conspicuous gallantry.

Command Sergeant Major Adkins will receive the Medal of Honor for his actions while serving as an Intelligence Sergeant assigned to Detachment A-102, 5th Special Forces Group, 1st Special Forces.  Then-Sergeant First Class Adkins distinguished himself during combat operations at Camp A Shau, Republic of Vietnam, on March 9 through March 12, 1966.

Specialist Four Donald P. Sloat will receive the Medal of Honor posthumously for his actions while serving as a Machine gunner with Company D, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment, 196th Light Infantry Brigade, Americal Division.  Specialist Four Sloat distinguished himself during combat operations in the vicinity of Hawk Hill Fire Base, Republic of Vietnam, on January 17, 1970.

President Obama also approved the awarding of the Medal of Honor to Army First Lieutenant Alonzo H. Cushing for gallantry in action at the battle of Gettysburg on July 3, 1863.   Additional details on the award to First Lieutenant Cushing will be announced separately.

First Lieutenant Alonzo H. Cushing will receive the Medal of Honor posthumously for his actions while serving as commanding officer of Battery A, 4th United States Artillery, Artillery Brigade, 2nd Corps, Army of the Potomac. Cushing distinguished himself during combat operations against an armed enemy in the vicinity of Cemetery Ridge, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on July 3, 1863.


Command Sergeant Major Adkins joined the Army in 1956, at the age of 22. He served in the 2nd Infantry Division until leaving to join Special Forces in 1961.  He deployed to Vietnam three times between February 1963 and December 1971; the actions for which he will receive the Medal of Honor took place during his second tour.

After Vietnam, Command Sergeant Major Adkins served approximately two years as First Sergeant for the Army Garrison Communications Command in Fort Huachuca, Arizona. He then joined Class #3 of the Army Sergeants Major Academy in El Paso, Texas. After graduation, he served with Special Forces at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and then led training at Fort Sherman’s Jungle School in the Panama Canal Zone. He retired from the Army in 1978.

Command Sergeant Major Adkins and his wife of 59 years, Mary Adkins, currently reside in Opelika, Alabama. They will both attend the Medal of Honor ceremony at the White House.

Specialist Four Sloat entered the Army on March 19, 1969 from Coweta, Oklahoma. After completing his training, he was assigned as an M60 Machine Gunner, to 3rd Platoon, Delta Company, 2/1 196th Light Infantry Brigade, Americal Division, in the Republic of Vietnam.

Specialist Four Sloat was killed in action on Jan. 17, 1970, at the age of 20.  On that day, his squad was conducting a patrol, when one of the Soldiers triggered a hand grenade trap placed in their path by enemy forces. Specialist Four Sloat picked up the live grenade, initially to throw it away. However, when he realized that detonation was imminent, he chose to shield its blast with his own body, sacrificing his own life to save the lives of three of his fellow Soldiers.

Dr. William Sloat of Enid, Oklahoma, will join the President at the White House to accept the Medal of Honor on his brother’s behalf.

First Lieutenant Cushing graduated, and was commissioned, from the United States Military Academy at West Point in the class of June 1861.  Born in what is now Delafield, Wisconsin, he was raised in Fredonia, New York.  Cushing was the commander of Battery A, 4th United States Artillery, Artillery Brigade, 2nd Corps, Army of the Potomac at Gettysburg.

First Lieutenant Cushing was killed in action on July 3, 1863, at the age of 22.  On that day, the third day of the battle, in the face of Longstreet’s Assault, also known as Pickett’s Charge, First Lieutenant Cushing’s battery took a severe pounding by Confederate artillery.  As the rebel infantry advanced, he manned the only remaining, and serviceable, field piece in his battery.  During the advance, he was wounded in the stomach as well as in the right shoulder.  Refusing to evacuate to the rear despite his severe wounds, he directed the operation of his lone field piece continuing to fire in the face of the enemy.  With the rebels within 100 yards of his position, Cushing was shot and killed during this heroic stand.  His actions made it possible for the Union Army to successfully repulse the Confederate assault. First Lieutenant Cushing is buried with full honors at his alma mater, West Point.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Colonel Bernard Fisher, awarded the Medal of Honor in 1967, died August 18, 2014

Colonel Bernard F. Fisher
Fisher was first to receive the Air Force designed Medal of Honor, which was established on April 14, 1965 (The first Medal of Honor received by an airman was awarded to Capt. Edward V. Rickenbacker for aerial combat in 1918).

President Lyndon B. Johnson presented the award to then-Maj. Fisher for risking his life to save a fellow pilot shot down during action in the A Shau Valley of Vietnam in 1966.

Fisher, who volunteered to go to Vietnam, “landed his Douglas A-1E Skyraider on an airfield controlled by the enemy under the most intense ground fire, pulled the downed pilot aboard his aircraft, and successfully escaped despite several bullets striking the plane,” according to his Air Force factsheet.

Today, the aircraft is on display at the USAF Museum at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

Fisher commissioned into the Air Force in 1951 after serving in the Air National Guard for three years. He served briefly in the Navy at the end of World War II prior to becoming an airman.

Fisher had extensive experience, the factsheet says, in fighters such as the F-80, F-86, and F-101, along with hundreds of close air support missions in the A-1E.

Born in San Bernadino, California, Fisher was raised and educated in Utah before he retired as a colonel to his hometown of Kuna, Idaho.


For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. On that date, the special forces camp at A Shau was under attack by 2,000 North Vietnamese Army regulars. Hostile troops had positioned themselves between the airstrip and the camp. Other hostile troops had surrounded the camp and were continuously raking it with automatic weapons fire from the surrounding hills. The tops of the 1,500-foot hills were obscured by an 800 foot ceiling, limiting aircraft maneuverability and forcing pilots to operate within range of hostile gun positions, which often were able to fire down on the attacking aircraft. During the battle, Maj. Fisher observed a fellow airman crash land on the battle-torn airstrip. In the belief that the downed pilot was seriously injured and in imminent danger of capture, Maj. Fisher announced his intention to land on the airstrip to effect a rescue. Although aware of the extreme danger and likely failure of such an attempt, he elected to continue. Directing his own air cover, he landed his aircraft and taxied almost the full length of the runway, which was littered with battle debris and parts of an exploded aircraft. While effecting a successful rescue of the downed pilot, heavy ground fire was observed, with 19 bullets striking his aircraft. In the face of the withering ground fire, he applied power and gained enough speed to lift-off at the overrun of the airstrip. Maj. Fisher's profound concern for his fellow airman, and at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty are in the highest traditions of the U.S. Air Force and reflect great credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of his country.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Jon R. Cavaiani, recipient of the Medal of Honor, dies at 70

MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C., July 29, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Congressional Medal of Honor Society announces that Sergeant Major Jon R. Cavaiani, Medal of Honor recipient, passed away Tuesday, July 29, 2014 in Stanford, California at age 70.

He was awarded the Medal of Honor, the highest award given to those who acted with uncommon, selfless courage, by President Gerald Ford on December 12, 1974.

Born  August 2, 1943 in Royston, U.K. Cavaiani's parents emigrated to the U.S. in 1947. He became a naturalized citizen in 1968 shortly before he joined the Army where he served with the 5th Special Forces Group. While defending a secret radio site deep in enemy territory from an enemy attack, he rallied his platoon and fought until helicopters were called to remove the soldiers. He voluntarily stayed on the ground with a recovered machine-gun and covered their withdrawal before being captured and serving 23 months in a Vietnamese P.O.W. camp. He was released after the war. He retired from the Army after 31 years in 1990 at the rank of Sergeant Major.

Medal of Honor citation

S/Sgt. Cavaiani distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty in action in the Republic of Vietnam on 4 and 5 June 1971 while serving as a platoon leader to a security platoon providing security for an isolated radio relay site located within enemy-held territory. On the morning of 4 June 1971, the entire camp came under an intense barrage of enemy small arms, automatic weapons, rocket-propelled grenade and mortar fire from a superior size enemy force. S/Sgt. Cavaiani acted with complete disregard for his personal safety as he repeatedly exposed himself to heavy enemy fire in order to move about the camp's perimeter directing the platoon's fire and rallying the platoon in a desperate fight for survival. S/Sgt. Cavaiani also returned heavy suppressive fire upon the assaulting enemy force during this period with a variety of weapons. When the entire platoon was to be evacuated, S/Sgt. Cavaiani unhesitatingly volunteered to remain on the ground and direct the helicopters into the landing zone. S/Sgt. Cavaiani was able to direct the first 3 helicopters in evacuating a major portion of the platoon. Due to intense increase in enemy fire, S/Sgt. Cavaiani was forced to remain at the camp overnight where he calmly directed the remaining platoon members in strengthening their defenses. On the morning of S June, a heavy ground fog restricted visibility. The superior size enemy force launched a major ground attack in an attempt to completely annihilate the remaining small force. The enemy force advanced in 2 ranks, first firing a heavy volume of small arms automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenade fire while the second rank continuously threw a steady barrage of hand grenades at the beleaguered force. S/Sgt. Cavaiani returned a heavy barrage of small arms and hand grenade fire on the assaulting enemy force but was unable to slow them down. He ordered the remaining platoon members to attempt to escape while he provided them with cover fire. With 1 last courageous exertion, S/Sgt. Cavaiani recovered a machine gun, stood up, completely exposing himself to the heavy enemy fire directed at him, and began firing the machine gun in a sweeping motion along the 2 ranks of advancing enemy soldiers. Through S/Sgt. Cavaiani's valiant efforts with complete disregard for his safety, the majority of the remaining platoon members were able to escape. While inflicting severe losses on the advancing enemy force, S/Sgt. Cavaiani was wounded numerous times. S/Sgt. Cavaiani's conspicuous gallantry, extraordinary heroism and intrepidity at the risk of his life, above and beyond the call of duty, were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself and the U.S. Army.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Hero of Afghanistan War, Army Sergeant Ryan M. Pitts awarded Medal of Honor

At a ceremony at the White House this afternoon, President Obama presented the Medal of Honor to Staff Sergeant Ryan M. Pitts for his unwavering courage in one of the fiercest battles of the Afghanistan war.

In the summer of 2008, when our forces in Afghanistan were stretched thin across isolated outposts, Ryan was serving alongside 48 American soldiers charged with using little resources to defend a post with significant vulnerabilities. Mountains stood sky-high on every side of the village of Wanat, diverting aerial surveillance and delaying the heavy equipment they needed for their defense.

In the pre-dawn darkness of one fateful July morning, while manning this small, unfinished base, Ryan and his fellow soldiers were attacked by 200 assailants who were determined to take their post. “Those 200 insurgents were firing from ridges and from the village and from trees,” President Obama said. “Down at the base, a vehicle exploded—scattering its missiles, back at our soldiers. It was, said a soldier, ‘hell on earth.’”

Pounded by the relentless attack, every soldier was wounded almost instantaneously. Bleeding from the arm and both his legs, Ryan, at 22 years old, was the last man standing between the insurgents and his base. In his remarks, President Obama described how Ryan’s heroic acts helped not only prevent the fall of his post but save lives of his fellow soldiers:

As the insurgents moved in, Ryan picked up a grenade, pulled the pin, and held that live grenade—for a moment, then another, then another—finally hurling it so they couldn’t throw it back.  Then he did it again.  And again.  Unable to stand, Ryan pulled himself up on his knees and manned a machine gun.  Soldiers from the base below made a daring run—dodging bullets and explosions—and joined the defense.  But now the enemy was inside the post—so close they were throwing rocks at the Americans; so close they came right up to the sandbags.  Eight American soldiers had now fallen.  And Ryan Pitts was the only living soldier at that post.  

Soon, the enemy was so close Ryan could hear their voices. He whispered into the radio—he was the only one left and was running out of ammo.  “I was going to die,” he remembers, “and made my peace with it.”  The he prepared to make a last stand.  Bleeding, barely conscious, Ryan threw his last grenades.  He grabbed a grenade launcher and fired—nearly straight up, so the grenades came back down on the enemy just yards away.  One insurgent was now right on top of the post, shooting down—until another team of Americans showed up and drove him back.  As one of his teammates said, had it not been for Ryan Pitts, that post “almost certainly would have been overrun.”

But even with those reinforcements, the battle was not over.  Another wave of rocket-propelled grenades slammed into the post.  Nine American soldiers were now gone.  Still, the fighting raged.  Ryan worked the radio, helping target the air strikes that were hitting “danger-close”—just yards away.  And with those strikes the tide of the battle began to turn.  Eventually, the insurgents fell back.  Ryan and his fellow soldiers had held their ground.

Ryan’s steadfast bravery and selfless dedication to his brothers-in-arms exemplifies the quintessential strength of America’s servicemen and women. To Ryan, the Medal does not belong to him alone but serves as a tribute to all who fought with valor that day and as “a memorial for the guys who didn’t come home.” Today, the President honored the nine men who made the ultimate sacrifice for us all that day in Wanat:

The son who “absorbed love like a sponge”; the expectant father whose dream would later come true: a beautiful baby girl—Specialist Sergio Abad.

The boy who dominated the soccer field, fell in love with motorcycles, and there in that remote outpost took a direct hit in the helmet and kept on fighting—Corporal Jonathan Ayers.

The photographer whose pictures captured the spirit of the Afghan people, and who wrote to his family: “Afghanistan is exactly [where]…I wanted to be”—Corporal Jason Bogar.

The father who loved surfing with his son; the platoon leader who led a dash through the gunfire to that post to reinforce his men—1st Lieutenant Jonathan Brostrom.

An immigrant from Mexico who became a proud American soldier, on his third tour, whose final thoughts were of his family and his beloved wife Lesly—Sergeant Israel Garcia.

A young man of deep faith, who served God and country, who could always get a laugh with his impersonations of his commander—Corporal Jason Hovater.

The husband who couldn’t wait to become an uncle; the adventurous spirit who in every photo from Afghanistan had a big smile on his face—Corporal Matthew Phillips.

The big guy with an even bigger heart; the prankster whose best play was cleaning up at the poker table with his buddies and his dad—Corporal Pruitt Rainey.

And the youngest, just 20 years old, the “little brother” of the platoon, who loved to play guitar, and who, says his dad, did everything in life with passion—Corporal Gunnar Zwilling.

“Their legacy lives on in the hearts of all who love them still, especially their families,” the President said. “Mothers. Fathers. Wives. Brothers and sisters. Sons and daughters.” For Ryan, who is celebrating his two-year anniversary today with his wife Amy and his one-year-old son Lucas, that is the story he wants people to remember: “Soldiers who loved each other like brothers and who fought for each other; families who have made a sacrifice that our nation must never forget. ‘I think we owe it to them,’ he says, to ‘live lives worthy of their sacrifice.’”

The President reflected on the lessons we learned from Ryan and those who fought in the battle of Wanat:

When this nation sends our troops into harm’s way, they deserve a sound strategy and a well-defined mission.  They deserve the forces and support to get the job done.  That is what we owe soldiers like Ryan and all the comrades that were lost.  That is how we can truly honor all those who gave their lives that day.  That is how, as a nation, we can remain worthy of their sacrifice. I know that’s a view that’s shared by our Secretary of Defense, our Joint Chiefs of Staff, and all the leadership here. They’re hard lessons, but they’re ones that are deeply engrained in our hearts.

It is remarkable that we have young men and women serving in our military who, day in and day out, are able to perform with so much integrity, so much ability, so much courage. Ryan represents the very best of that tradition and we are very, very proud of him as we are of all of you.

So God bless you, Ryan.  God bless all who serve in our name.  And may God continue to bless the United States of America.