President Obama recently bestowed the Medal of Honor to Vietnam War veteran retired Lt. Col. Charles Kettles.
Kettles led helicopters into hostile territories during the Vietnam War in order to carry in reinforcements to fellow U.S. soldiers as well as evacuate the injured. One such mission took place in May of 1967 near Duc Pho, when Kettles, now 86, helped rescue more than 40 soldiers under heavy attack.
President Obama spoke about how Kettles returned to the landing zone under heavy fire. After being informed that eight soldiers, who were providing cover for the rescue operations, were pinned down and were unable to reach the helicopter. Kettles returned without artillery or tactical aircraft support to rescue the pinned down soldiers.
Obama pointed out that Kettles’ helicopter was the only target for the enemy at that point. As the helicopter landed, mortar rounds shattered the windshield and damaged the main rotor blade. As small arms and machine gun fire struck the helicopter, which was 600 pounds over capacity from carrying 13 people, Kettles managed to hop and skip across the ground just enough to muster the speed for takeoff. Just as the helicopter was airborne, another mortar round took out the tail, causing the helicopter to violently fishtail. In the explosion a soldier was knocked overboard and somehow managed to hold onto he skid as Kettles flew them all to safety.
After recounting the tale of bravery and heroism Obama said, “I can’t make this stuff up…This is like a bad Rambo movie…You’re listening to this, you can’t believe it.”
The President put the ordeal into perspective saying, “ entire family trees were made possible by the actions of this one man.”
President Obama stated that Kettles’ bravery was quintessentially American in the way he showed the importance of never leaving anyone behind and looking out for others.
“This shouldn’t just be a creed for our soldiers. This should be a creed for all of us,” Obama said.
In the wake of the recent shootings of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge, Obama stated that the nation had a couple of tough weeks. He went onto say,” for us to remember the goodness and decency of the American people in a way that we can all look out for each other even when times are tough, even when the odds are against us, what a wonderful inspiration, what a great gift for us to be able to celebrate something like this.”