(WASHINGTON) -- At a ceremony nearly five decades in the making, President Obama will present the Medal of Honor to retired Army Lt. Col. Charles Kettles for his rescue of dozens of fellow soldiers during the Vietnam War.
Kettles is receiving the military’s highest honor at the White House Monday for leading helicopter operations in May 1967 to rescue U.S. soldiers trapped in an ambush near Duc Pho, Republic of Vietnam. He directed several trips to the landing zone under heavy enemy fire, according to the U.S. Army.
Obama tweeted a video of the Vietnam War veteran.
“It’s not just me. I’m just leading the pack. Making the decisions, which some may not have liked them. I don’t know,” Kettles says in the video. “But those behind me were obliged to follow and they did. They did their job. Above and beyond. So, the medal is not mine, it’s theirs.”
While evacuating the wounded, Kettles learned that eight soldiers were stranded and unable to get to the helicopters in time. He returned to help them, this time without the protection of aerial support. Kettles’ actions saved the lives of 40 soldiers and four members of his own crew that day.
The Medal of Honor is given to members of the Armed Forces who go “above and beyond the call of duty,” and exhibit “great personal bravery or self-sacrifice,” according to a White House news release.
Kettles, who enlisted at age 21, served as a flight commander in the 176th Aviation Company (Airmobile) (Light), 14th Combat Aviation Battalion, Americal Division.
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