President Trump will award Vietnam War veteran Gary Rose with the Medal of Honor in an October 23 ceremony 47 years after his secret mission in Laos, the White House said Wednesday.
Sgt. Gary Rose was a medic at the time and part of the Studies and Observations group, a division of the Special Forces. The units purpose was to work with Montagnards, indigenous Vietnamese fighters, to attack North Vietnamese forces in Laos along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, USA Today reports.
The mission was kept secret for years, as Richard M. Nixon denied that American troops were ever operating in Laos, according to The New York Times.
On Sept. 11, 1970, Rose dropped deep behind enemy lines in a Marine helicopter, beginning a tale of heroism that was finally rewarded nearly 50 years later.
“From the get go we started taking attack fire from the NVA,” Rose told USA Today. “At that point, it increased by the hour because they knew we were in there, and they started massing more people to come at us.”
Over the course of the next 96 hours, Rose would see the bloodiest combat of his career.
When two Americans were hit by enemy gunfire, Rose, firing his own weapon, rushed to the aid of one of the men and carried him back to safety under “heavy gunfire,” according to the Army’s account of Rose’s actions.
“Sgt. Rose, bravely and courageously, with no regard for his own safety, moved through the enemy fire to render lifesaving medical treatment to the mounting wounded, personally engaging the enemy to get the wounded men,” the account states.
On the second day of action, Rose was wounded while aiding another injured man.
“I had a hole blown through my foot about the size of your thumb,” Rose told USA Today. “On my right foot. That night I took my boot off to see how bad it was. My index finger, my whole finger slipped into the hole. So, I took my finger out. I remember putting my sock back on. I remember thinking, I’ll worry about that later.”
On the third day, Rose’s company called in a medevac helicopter to evacuate the wounded. The helicopter was unable to land due to “withering enemy fire,” and ended up crashing moments later. The company was stranded, and over half of them wounded. Rose himself was severely injured, but continued to treat others.
Later that night, North Vietnamese forces again assaulted the stranded Americans.
“Rose worked tirelessly to dig trenches for the wounded and treat their injuries. The NVA bombarded the company all night with rockets, grenades and mortars. All night, Rose exposed himself to the enemy fire, courageously moving from position to position, encouraging the Soldiers and treating the numerous wounded,” the Army’s account continues.
On the last day of fighting, Rose’s company destroyed an enemy base. Soon after, they were alerted that over 500 enemy combatants were descending on their position. The company called in an extraction.
Rose’s next actions are nothing short of heroic.
When the extraction helicopters arrived, Rose engaged the enemy to repel the assault. When the last helicopter was prepared to leave the battlefield, Rose finally boarded.
“Shortly after the helicopter lifted off, it was hit by enemy anti-aircraft rounds. At about 4,500 feet in the air, Rose heard the engine stop. Rose was alerted that a Marine door gunner on the extraction helicopter had been shot with an enemy round through his neck. Rose rushed to his aid, rendering lifesaving medical treatment that saved the Marine’s life before the helicopter crashed, several kilometers away from the initial extraction point,” the Army’s account notes.
“Rose was thrown from the helicopter before the point of impact. With the Soldiers on board wounded from the crash, the helicopter was smoking and leaking fuel. Still dazed and wounded from the crash, Rose crawled back into the downed helicopter to pull his wounded and unconscious teammates from the wreckage, knowing it could explode at any moment. Rose continued to professionally administer medical treatment to the injured personnel until another helicopter arrived on the scene to extract the men,” the account adds.
“Despite the many wounded, only three men died during the four days of almost constant contact with a superior enemy force deep in enemy territory. Rose’s unwavering devotion to duty, professionalism and skill in his job as a medic, and extreme courage under heavy enemy fire, reflect great credit on himself, the Special Forces, and the United States Army,” the account concludes.