Medal of Honor recipients visit Airmen in Southwest Asia


Active member
Medal of Honor recipients visit Airmen in Southwest Asia
by Staff Sgt. Thomas J. Doscher
386th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

4/14/2009 - SOUTHWEST ASIA (AFNS) -- Two Medal of Honor recipients visited with Airmen from the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing April 10 here.

Retired Army Col. Robert Howard and retired Army Command Sgt. Maj. Gary Littrell, visited as part of a Medal of Honor Society tour of the area of responsibility.

The Vietnam veterans who earned the military's highest award for valor participated in a retreat ceremony, spoke to Airmen and signed autographs.

Colonel Howard said the people of the United States owe a debt to American servicemembers and appreciate their efforts.

"Out of 300 million Americans, we got less than 1 percent that's fighting a war against evil around the world," he told the packed theater. "Now, I'm not going to talk strategy to you, I'm not going talk about good and bad. I'm going to talk about service. I love my great country and I love what you provide for me and I'd like to talk about that."

Medal of Honor Society members travel throughout the United States to speak to groups such as schools about the meaning of service, Colonel Howard said.

"We go around the country, making people aware of your service and saying 'thank you for serving our country,'" he said. "Freedom is not free. You have to earn that, and you earn it for us, so thank you."

Sergeant Major Littrell talked about the battle near Dak Seang, Vietnam, for which his Medal of Honor was awarded. As an adviser with the 23rd Battalion, 2nd Ranger Group of the Republic of Vietnam Army, Sergeant Major Littrell and the South Vietnamese rangers were surrounded and attacked. With the other American troops in the unit were killed or wounded early in the battle, Sergeant Major Littrell was soon the only American Soldier in the unit during a four-day continuous battle.

"We went into a four-day, four-night nonstop battle, and I was the only American left up on the hill," he said. "I wear this medal because the people who were there, listening to the radio communications, the Vietnamese I worked with, felt that I had done something beyond the call of duty. I didn't."

Sergeant Major Littrell went on to explain that the Army and the Air Force working jointly helped get him and the surviving members of his team out of there.

"At the end of that four days, we got an order to withdraw," he said. "I said, 'Now, that's great, but I'm going to need some support.' I had five rounds left in my snubnose .38. We're going to need some ammunition, we're going to need some air support, and we're going to need artillery. We got word, 'Sorry, you're third priority. We've got troops in heavy contact.' But thanks to some helicopter gunships that heard that message, they come back on the air and said, 'Three-Three-Charlie, we've been supporting you for four days and four nights, we'll get you off the hill. If we have a diverted mission, we'll come in and walk off the hill. The fast movers would come in and they were literally blowing holes in front of us. We would move to the crater and the helicopters were running up and down and they walked 43 of us down the hill."

Out of 473 rangers who went up the hill with the American advisers, 43 walked down again.

"Sergeant Major Littrell walked off that hill with 43 people out of 473," Colonel Howard said. "So thanks to our good Air Force and our combat service support, he is able to be here with you today."

Sergeant Major Littrell said with the leadership and quality of servicemember serving today, winning the war against terrorism is only a matter of time.

"We're going to win this war," he said. "It's going to take a while, but we're going to win it. And we're going to win it with good leadership, good generals, good colonels, good senior NCOs and the good servicemembers we have right now."

Since becoming a separate service in 1947, 17 Air Force Airmen have received the Medal of Honor.