Four Army troops received the nation’s highest military accolade on Tuesday from US President Joe Biden in recognition of their bravery during the Vietnam War that went above and beyond the call of duty.
Staff Sgt. Edward N. Kaneshiro, Specialists Five Dwight W. Birdwell, Dennis M. Fujii, and retired Maj John J. Duffy are receiving the Medal of Honor from President Joe Biden. Biden lauded their bravery when speaking in the East Room of the White House, lamenting that they hadn’t personally received due honor.
“Not every service member has received the full recognition they deserve,” Biden said.
“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.”
Biden brought back how they served in the battle zone and said the war veterans “went far and above the call of duty.”
Although the remnants of the Vietnam war existed for almost 50 years already, Biden claimed that “time has not diminished their bravery.”
“It’s just astounding when you hear what each of them have done. I’m proud to finally award our highest military recognition, the Medal of Honor, to each of you. I’m happy to finally present our highest military recognition, the Medal of Honor, to each of you, the president said in a speech to the three surviving servicemen and the Kaneshiro family members.
The honor is being handed posthumously to Kaneshiro, who was gunned down by a bullet wound in Vietnam in 1967, following a raid on December 1, 1966, in which North Vietnamese forces opened fire on his battalion. It said his squad could escape the area they were battling because of his acts.
Meanwhile, despite suffering injuries to his body and face on January 31, 1968, Birdwell, now a lawyer in Oklahoma City, assisted in halting an attack and evacuating wounded armed forces at Tan Son Nhut Airbase near Saigon.
To “make this day possible,” Biden asserted that it required Birdwell’s commanding officer for decades to recognize that Birdwell had not received the proper acknowledgment.
He is the first Native American to win a Medal of Honor for heroism in the Vietnam War.
“Through this award, I bring respect and dignity to the Cherokee people and let others know that we have served and continue to serve the United States in war and peace and in time of need,” Birdwell proclaimed.
“Cherokee people have always done that, and I’ve carried on that tradition. And I’m very proud of being Cherokee, and I hope Cherokees are proud of me,” he added.
“At long last, long last, your story is being honored as it should have been always,” Biden said to Birdwell.
On the other hand, after his air ambulance service was compelled to crash land, Fujii nursed injured people and coordinated airstrikes targeting enemy forces over four days in February 1971, earning him the medal.
After their commanding officer was killed in combat, Duffy was honored for guiding besieged soldiers, fending off assailants, and rescuing wounded people despite his severe injuries. Duffy went on to write books and once had a poem nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.
He told NBC News that he took communication very seriously since all he had to provide was airpower.
“He is the definition of a warrior poet,” Biden told Duffy.
“All I did was literally went to work, did my job, made the best decisions. I was never frightened during that whole procedure. And the reason was, I was confident I knew what I could do.”
According to Biden, when Duffy arrived at the “exfiltration site,” he ensured he was the last person to board the aircraft. He fell backward from the helicopter when one of his Vietnamese allies was shot.
“Major Duffy caught him and dragged him back in on board with him, saving one more life along the way,” said Biden.
Looking back at the Vietnam War, BBC indicated that one of the many reasons why the United States dragged in the conflict is that in 1949, China adopted communism, and communists ruled North Vietnam. The USA was concerned that South Vietnam and the rest of Asia might become communist nations. So it decided to assist the South Vietnamese government by sending money, supplies, and military advisers.
The Cost of War
According to estimates from the US military, the war claimed the lives of between 200,000 and 250,000 South Vietnamese soldiers. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial, which bears the names of 57,939 US military personnel who died or went missing due to the conflict, was officially opened in Washington, DC, in 1982.