“A Soldier’s Trust”

There’s no question we need to remember our history. We are a nation of 330 million people and a very small percentage of our population served in the military. An even smaller percentage fought in any war. Those who are now able to call themselves “combat veterans” deserve for us to remember them. Particularly the heroes. On November 14, 1965, a professional soldier six days shy of this 39th birthday helped shape the outcome of a famous battle remembered by many Vietnam veterans. In the process, he earned the title of hero. The battle raged for four days and was the first major engagement between US forces and the North Vietnamese Army (NVA). It was the Battle of Ia Drang.

In this modern-day and age in which we live, some may have seen an e-mail or a posting on Facebook that begins, “You’re 19, critically wounded, and med-evac isn’t coming, but a lone unarmed helicopter suddenly lands before you.” The story that follows goes on to tell about the flying of one Huey helicopter pilot who voluntarily brought in water, supplies, and ammunition. On the way out on each flight, Captain Ed “Too Tall” Freeman carried out severely wounded soldiers. In the process, he and his crew kept flying, kept working, despite the fact they were all wounded themselves.

Freeman’s story is incredible. The infantrymen he flew in support of were running out of ammunition and taking heavy fire. Leadership told the medical helicopter pilots to stand down; flights into and out of the area stopped. When it became so bad it was apparent the men on the ground needed aerial support, Freeman’s commanding officer asked for volunteers. He and his crew were the only ones who stepped forward you. Then began an incredible 14.5 hours of flying throughout the rest of the day.

At perilous risk to his crew and himself, Freeman kept flying in and out of LZ X-Ray to bring in supplies and extract wounded soldiers. He flew 14 missions that day and saved an estimated 30 men—some of whom would not have survived without Captain Freeman’s selfless devotion to duty.

His commander recommended him for the Medal of Honor, but for whatever reason, the recommendation came late, beyond the two years called for by regulations. He received the Distinguished Flying Cross instead. Many soldiers and officers who witnessed Freeman’s incredible dedication and courage that day began a campaign to see him awarded the MOH. In 1995, authorities removed the two-year deadline, paving the way for the approval for Freeman to receive the Medal of Honor.

On July 16, 2001, during ceremonies in the East Room of the White House, President George W. Bush presented Major Ed Freeman the Medal of Honor.

Listen to Major Ed Freeman’s story recorded on video below.

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©2019 J. Clark
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