In the midst of fiery chaos during the early days of the Vietnam War, an audacious and skilled helicopter pilot fearlessly navigated through raging gunfire. With unwavering determination, he heroically rescued dozens of soldiers, defying the jaws of death and earning the Medal of Honor as a testament to his remarkable bravery.

A Call to Service

In late November of 1927, a large family living on a farm in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, welcomed the sixth of the nine children to the Freeman clan. They named him Edward.

After witnessing thousands of men on maneuvers passing by their family farmhouse, thirteen-year-old Freeman felt inspired to become a soldier. A couple more years later, the young Freeman felt a calling beyond his hometown, so he left high school to join the Navy for two years. Freeman was 17 then. He soon found himself serving as an oiler, providing petroleum to combat ships deployed at the grueling Pacific theater during World War II.

After the war ended, he returned and finished his secondary education, only to enlist back in the military afterward, this time serving in the Army in September 1948.

The 1950s rolled in, and along with it was the conflict that broke out in the Korean Peninsula. Now a first sergeant, Freeman fought among the infantry lines and participated in major battles, including the bloody Battle of Pork Chop Hill, where he was among the 14 survivors out of the more than 200 men deployed men and made it through the opening stages of the campaign.

The campaign’s intensity did not shock him. Instead, he assumed command of B Company after receiving his second lieutenant bars from General James Van Fleet himself. Freeman led his company back up the controversial Pork Chop Hill.

Sidenote: The Battle of Pork Chop Hill was seen by many Americans as a controversial campaign as the number of casualties suffered was viewed as far too high for land with little-to-no strategic value.

His time in Korea made Freeman think back to his childhood dream of becoming a pilot, so shortly after returning from his overseas deployment, he applied for flight school. However, this dream almost didn’t work out for him because he was considered to be too tall to be an effective pilot. But eventually, the service adjusted the height requirements allowing Freeman to become a skilled aviator, with the endearment “too tall” sticking with him throughout his military career. He initially flew fixed-wing Army aircraft before switching to helicopters, and when the Korean War ended, he went on mapping missions to gain more flight hours under his belt.