President Barack Obama has announced he will award retired Lieutenant Colonel Charles S. Kettles the Medal of Honor. The award comes nearly 50-years after the act of "conspicuous gallantry" took place. Kettles will receive the award for service in the U-S Army at the White House on July 18th. .
According to the White House, "Kettles will receive the Medal of Honor for his actions while serving as a Flight Commander assigned to 176th Aviation Company (Airmobile) (Light), 14th Combat Aviation Battalion, Americal Division. Then-Major Kettles distinguished himself in combat operations near Duc Pho, Republic of Vietnam, on May 15, 1967. He led a platoon of UH-1Ds to provide support to the 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, during an ambush by a battalion-sized enemy force. After leading several trips to the hot landing zone and evacuating the wounded, he returned, without additional aerial support, to rescue a squad-sized element of stranded soldiers pinned down by enemy fire. He is credited with saving the lives of 40 soldiers and four of his own crew members.”
The announcement has been a long time coming. For about five years there has been a coordinated effort to win Lt. Colonel Kettles this recognition. The Ypsilanti Rotary Veterans History Project, and the offices of former U.S. Congressman John Dingell and current U.S. Congresswoman Debbie Dingell have been working on behalf of the Kettles family to ensure his acts of valor were properly honored.
Congresswoman Dingell says, “LTC Charlie Kettles went above and beyond the call of duty during one of the darkest times in our nation’s history to save the lives of his fellow service members, In the shadow of the Vietnam War, too many men and women were not celebrated, recognized or treated with respect when they came home."
The 12th congressional district Democrat adds, "We need to tell the good stories of the Vietnam War and recognize the true patriots who refused to give up or leave a man behind. Charlie Kettles is one such patriot, and I am pleased that nearly 50 years later, with the award of the Medal of Honor, his contributions to our country will be properly honored.”
To listen to a November 2015 interview WEMU's Patrick Campion conducted with Lt. Col. Charles Kettle, click here.