Ypsilanti Vietnam veteran fights for Medal of Honor

Kyla Smith
The Detroit News

Army Maj. Charles S. Kettles is one step closer to receiving the Medal of Honor for his service in the Vietnam War.

Legislation that was introduced in November by U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, and Sens. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, and Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, for Kettles to receive the honor will be included in the 2016 government funding bill Friday.

The recommendation for the award must be made by Congress since the statute of limitation has passed.

The Medal of Honor is the nation’s highest military recognition. Awarded for valor in combat, the medal has been given to more than 3,400 U.S. servicemembers since being authorized in 1861.

“It’s nice to know we are one step closer in completing this process,” Kettles of Ypsilanti said. “I appreciate everyone’s effort in spearheading the bill.”

Kettles, 85, helped save 40 troops and four helicopter crewmen from the 176th Aviation Company in the Song Tra Cau riverbed May 15, 1967.

Kettles was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross in 1968, the second-highest military honor for servicemembers exemplifying courage and for extreme gallantry and risk of life in combat. In 2012, William Vollano, a coordinator with the Veterans History Project, and Kettles’ family launched a campaign to upgrade his award to the Medal of Honor.

Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter agreed Kettles’ actions merited the Medal of Honor.

Dingell and many others hope the efforts of Kettles are finally recognized.

“Maj. Kettles is a true American hero, who courageously risked his life to ensure no soldier was left behind,” she said. “It has been my honor to work with Sen. Peters and Sen. Stabenow to ensure his contributions to our country are properly honored.”


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