Obama to Award Medal of Honor to Vietnam-era Airman

WASHINGTON, Sept. 7, 2010 — A fall­en Viet­nam War-era air­man will posthu­mous­ly receive the Medal of Hon­or for hero­ism from Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma dur­ing a Sept. 21 White House cer­e­mo­ny.

Air Force Chief Mas­ter Sgt. Richard L. “Dick” Etch­berg­er was killed March 11, 1968, in Laos dur­ing the bat­tle of Mount Phou Pha Thi.

Viet Cong troops over­ran a U.S. radar site where Etch­berg­er main­tained equip­ment in sup­port of the U.S. bomb­ing cam­paign against North Viet­nam. Etch­berg­er, a Ham­burg, Pa., native, risked his life repeat­ed­ly dur­ing the bat­tle to ensure the safe­ty of his troops.

Etch­berg­er held off ene­my fight­ers with an M-16 rifle while direct­ing air strikes and air res­cue from his radio. His actions saved the lives of some of his crew who were unable to hold their fight­ing posi­tions, accord­ing to a White House state­ment.

He put him­self in harm’s way again when res­cue heli­copters arrived, expos­ing him­self to heavy ene­my fire as a decoy, allow­ing three wound­ed troops to safe­ly board the hov­er­ing heli­copter. Though his actions ensured his men’s safe­ty, Etch­berg­er was fatal­ly wound­ed by ene­my ground fire as he was being raised into the res­cue heli­copter, the state­ment said. Air Force Sec­re­tary Michael B. Don­ley nom­i­nat­ed Etch­berg­er for the award after a 2008 board reviewed Etchberger’s actions.

The Medal of Hon­or is the nation’s high­est mil­i­tary recog­ni­tion, and is award­ed to mem­bers of the armed forces who dis­tin­guish them­selves con­spic­u­ous­ly by gal­lantry and intre­pid­i­ty at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty.

Etchberger’s sons — Cory Etch­berg­er, Richard Etch­berg­er and Steve Wil­son — will join the pres­i­dent at the White House to com­mem­o­rate their father’s exam­ple of self­less ser­vice and sac­ri­fice.

Etch­berg­er served in the Air Force from 1951 until his death. He served in the elec­tron­ics career field in Mis­sis­sip­pi, Utah, Moroc­co, North Dako­ta, the Philip­pines, Illi­nois and South Viet­nam. He was 35 years old at the time of his death.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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