Vietnam Pilot Receives Medal Of Honor Nearly 50 Years After Incredible Mission

Dan Chaison | Reporter

WASHINGTON—Almost five decades after saving 44 lives in Duc Pho, Vietnam, Lieutenant Colonel Charles “Chuck” Kettles was awarded the Medal of Honor on Monday for his heroic service on the battlefield. Kettles, a veteran Vietnam pilot, repeatedly flew his Huey helicopter into a storm of enemy fire to extract an element of American troops trapped in a riverbed on May 15, 1967.

Because of Kettles’ actions in saving lives, “there are entire family trees made possible,” Obama said before soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines gathered in the East Room of the White House. Some of those who were rescued that day were present for the ceremony as well. (RELATED: Vietnam Pilot To Receive Medal Of Honor)

“This story is quintessentially American,” President Obama said.


Noting the recent shooting tragedies that have sparked widespread division throughout the country, President Obama called on Kettles’ story as an example of why a divided America should come together and find common ground.

“Let’s face it, we’ve had a couple of tough weeks…we can all look out for each other,” Obama said, evoking the Army’s ‘leave no man behind’ values. 

The president added that Kettles is a “wonderful inspiration,” before presenting him with the Nation’s highest honor.

Upon returning from Vietnam, Kettles was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross — the second highest award — but his family and several members of Congress later teamed up to push for an upgrade. 

Known for his humble nature, the retired lieutenant colonel said he is grateful for the recognition, but the fact that those 44 troops survived “is the only thing that really matters.”

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