30 Years After My Lai, Medals Awarded 3 for Saving Vietnamese
Thirty years after one of the darkest moments in U.S. military history, three soldiers who had happened upon the My Lai massacre were proclaimed heroes by the Army because they risked their lives to save Vietnamese civilians by aiming their weapons at fellow Americans to stop the assault.
“We stand in honor of their heroism, and we have taken too long to recognize them,” Chaplain Donald Shea said Friday at an emotional ceremony by the granite wall of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. “Remembering a dark point in time, we are now a richer nation as their personal heroic service is woven into the fabric of our history.”
The ceremony was held to award the prestigious Soldier’s Medal--the highest award for bravery not involving conflict with an enemy--to the three members of a helicopter crew, Hugh Thompson, Lawrence Colburn and their comrade, Glenn Andreotta, who was killed in battle three weeks after My Lai.
“It was the ability to do the right thing even at the risk of their personal safety that guided these soldiers,” said Army Maj. Gen. Michael Ackerman.
“I proudly and humbly accept it not only for myself but for the men who served their country with honor on the battlefield in Southeast Asia,” said former helicopter pilot Thompson, his voice quavering with emotion. He counsels veterans in Lafayette, La.
Then Thompson, holding hands with companion Mona Gossen, and Colburn, with his family behind him, walked to the memorial wall and rubbed Andreotta’s name, etched into panel 48 E, onto a piece of paper.
The My Lai massacre left about 500 Vietnamese civilians dead and led to the court-martial of Lt. William Calley and five soldiers.
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