President Joe Biden on Tuesday awarded the Medal of Honor to four Army soldiers who fought in the Vietnam War.
Staff Sergeant Edward N. Kaneshiro received the Medal of Honor posthumously. Specialist Five Dwight W. Birdwell, Specialist Five Dennis M. Fujii and retired Major John J. Duffy were also awarded the Medal of Honor.
“This is a day that – quite frankly, I think being president is inadequate because there’s so many brave women and men in here,” Biden said Tuesday at the White House. (RELATED: Korean War Veteran To Receive Medal Of Honor After Ordering Men To Abandon Him During Operation)
“They stood in the way of danger, risked everything, literally everything, to defend our nations and our values,” Biden continued. “However, not every service member has received the full recognition they deserve. Today, we’re setting the record straight. We’re upgrading the awards of four soldiers who performed acts of incredible heroism during the Vietnam conflict.”
Kaneshiro served in Vietnam from July 1966 until his death in March 1967, according to the White House. He died from “a hostile gunshot wound” and was awarded the military’s most prestigious award due to “acts of gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty” when, in December 1966, his team entered a village and were attacked.
“Staff Sergeant Kaneshiro destroyed one enemy group with rifle fire and two others with grenades, which enabled the orderly extrication and reorganization of the platoon and ultimately led to a successful withdrawal from the village,” according to the White House.
Birdwell received the Medal of Honor due to his actions in Vietnam on January 31, 1968. During that day, Birdwell and his unit came under assault by “a large enemy element” and he was able to move an injured tank commander to safety before taking control of the tank himself.
“Afterwards, he dismounted and continued fighting until receiving enemy fire to his face and torso. He refused evacuation and led a small group of defenders to disrupt the enemy assault until reinforcements arrived. He then aided in evacuating the wounded until he was ordered to seek attention for his own wounds,” the White House reported.
Birdwell was honorably discharged in December 1968 and currently works as a lawyer in Oklahoma City.
Biden, speaking during the event Tuesday, noted that a lot of time has passed since each soldier “first proved their medal.”
“But time has not diminished their astonishing bravery, their selflessness in putting the lives of others ahead of their own, and the gratitude that we as a nation owe them,” he told a crowd of around 250 invited guests.
Fujii, the third Army soldier to receive the Medal of Honor on Tuesday, earned the award due to his actions while serving on a helicopter ambulance in February 1971. While carrying out a mission to rescue wounded Vietnamese military personnel, his helicopter crash landed after an attack, and Fujii was wounded but chose to stay behind alone.
“During that night and the next day, although wounded, he administered first aid to allied casualties,” the White House detailed. “On the night of February 19, he called in American helicopter gunships to assist in repelling an enemy attack. For more than 17 hours, he repeatedly exposed himself to hostile fire as he left the security of his entrenchment to better observe enemy troop positions and to direct air strikes against them until an American helicopter could attempt to airlift him from the area.”
Duffy, meanwhile, received the Medal of Honor due to his actions in Vietnam in April 1972. At the time, he became wounded twice but wouldn’t evacuate, instead trying to develop a landing zone and later aiding evacuees out of “a grand assault from all sides.” When helicopters eventually arrived, Duffy would only board after every other evacuee had made it onto the aircraft.
“Major Duffy’s service included three tours in Vietnam in a myriad of Special Forces assignments. He retired from the Army on May 31, 1977, and currently lives in Santa Cruz, California,” according to the White House.
“They went far above the and beyond the call of duty, it’s a phrase always used, but it takes on life when you see these men,” the president said during the awards ceremony. “I’m proud to finally award our highest military recognition, the medal of honor, to each of you.”