On Tuesday morning, President Joe Biden paid tribute to four Vietnam veterans with the United States’ highest military honor – the Medal of Honor. Biden presented the medals at an event at the White House earlier this morning. The four Vietnam veterans included Specialist 5 Dwight W. Birdwell, Major John J. Duffy, and Specialist 5 Dennis M. Fujii. Additionally, Staff Sergeant Edward N. Kaneshiro received his medal posthumously.
At a Glance
- Earlier today, President Joe Biden presented four Vietnam veterans with the Medal of Honor
- The four veterans earned the most prestigious decoration awarded to American military personnel
- Biden also presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom to 17 honorees at the event
The U.S. government awards the Medal of Honor as its highest and most decorated military decoration. The honor recognizes military personnel who have distinguished themselves through acts of valor. In a June 28 press release, the U.S. Army announced the four Vietnam veterans who would receive the award. The memo shared that each man “repeatedly put themselves in harm’s way to defend injured comrades.”
The press release also shared bios on each of the men who received the Medal of Honor. Each military member’s act of valor is described in detail in the press release. Honorees Birdwell and Duffy rebuffed “multiple enemy attacks while leading fellow soldiers and allies to safety.” Both men did so “despite sustaining wounds.”
Fujii, a combat medic, “repeatedly exposed himself to hostile fire” as he treated his fellow wounded soldiers. The Army added that Fujii “refused rescue attempts” as he continued to help troops for multiple days before being rescued.
Infantryman Kaneshiro came to the aid of several “trapped survivors of two U.S. squads.” They’d come under fire as enemy forces ambushed them in a Kim Son Valley village. Sadly, Kaneshiro died during active duty at a later stage of the Vietnam War.
The First Native American Honored for His Vietnam Service Receives the Medal of Honor
According to an ABC News report, Birdwell is also a former Cherokee Nation Supreme Court justice. Earlier today, he became the first Native American honored for his service in Vietnam. Further, Birdwell is the first Native American to receive the Medal of Honor for action in any conflict since 1973.
“Someone asked me if I feel like a hero,” Birdwell said to ABC News earlier today of his award. “I don’t feel like I am. But I served with plenty, especially that day, and [I’m] honored to have served with them.”
In addition to awarding the four men with the Medal of Honor, President Biden also presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The award is the nation’s highest civilian honor, and 17 Americans were recognized with it in today’s ceremony.
The 17 honorees included Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles and women’s soccer icon Megan Rapinoe. Other famous honorees include former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and Hollywood legend Denzel Washington. Late Apple CEO Steve Jobs and late Sen. John McCain also received the Medal of Freedom posthumously.