Vietnam vet gets Medal of Honor decades after Laos heroism

By James LaPorta  |  Updated Oct. 23, 2017 at 8:32 PM
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Oct. 23 (UPI) -- In a White House ceremony Monday, President Donald Trump awarded the Medal of Honor to a Vietnam veteran who helped more than 60 wounded soldiers -- recognition delayed decades by the classified nature of his mission in Laos.

Retired U.S. Army Capt. Gary M. Rose was a medic assigned to the 5th Special Forces Group Airborne, one of the most decorated Army Special Forces groups in history. He risked his life, while wounded himself, to deliver medical care to injured soldiers Sept. 11-14, 1970.

"As Mike puts it, 'if you don't believe in God, then you should have been with us that day,'" Trump said quoting Rose. "'It will make a believer out of you, because we should not have survived.'"

"That medal, to me, recognizes, finally, the service of all the men in all those years that served in MACSOG," the Military Assistance Command, Studies and Observation Group. "It's a collective medal from my perspective," Rose said when the award was announced.

Rose served with the Studies and Observations Group, an elite division of Special Forces whose missions were highly classified.

"That medal, to me, recognizes, finally, the service of all the men in all those years that served in MACSOG," the Military Assistance Command, SOG. "It's a collective medal from my perspective," Rose said when the award was announced.

Rose was originally recommended for the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest award for combat valor, under President Richard Nixon. At the time, the White House was publicly denying American troops were in Laos, where the North Vietnamese would move weapons and supplies along its border with Vietnam, in the jungles along the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

Rose's unit was involved with Operation Tailwind -- one of the biggest missions of the war -- which including dropping 136 men into Laos in order to draw attention from a CIA operation to the north.

On the final day of the mission, Rose again voluntarily exposed himself to enemy fire, although wounded himself, in order to move other wounded personnel to the medical evacuation extraction point. Rose would load his fellow soldiers onto the helicopter and then returned to repeal another assault from the enemy.

As Rose boarded the final extraction helicopter, it was hit by intense enemy fire causing it to crash after takeoff. Rose, who was injured, pulled the crew and his unit from the rotorcraft, and he delivered medical care until another helicopter arrived.

Rose would later receive three Purple Hearts, along with two Bronze Stars with Valor and the Distinguished Service Cross, the military's second-highest award.

Rose retired from the Army in 1987 as a captain, after serving 20 years, which included time spent in Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Panama.

"[Y]our will to endure, your love for your fellow soldier, your devotion to your country inspires us all," Trump said in bestowing the honor. "Nations are formed out of the strength and patriotism that lives in the hearts of our heroes."

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