President Biden awarded the Medal of Honor to four Vietnam War veterans Tuesday — including one former soldier who caught an injured compatriot as they fell out of a helicopter.
“We’re upgrading the awards for soldiers who performed acts of incredible heroism during the Vietnam conflict,” Biden said in the White House East Room.
“I mean, it’s just astounding when you hear what each of them have done,” the president added. “They went far above and beyond the call of duty.”
The three surviving veterans — Specialist Five Dwight Birdwell, Specialist Five Dennis Fujii and retired Major John Duffy — stood with Biden as they received their awards. The fourth honoree, Staff Sgt. Edward N. Kaneshiro, was killed in action on March 6, 1967.
Kaneshiro destroyed three Communist positions in a Vietnamese village by deploying two grenades and rifle fire during a 1966 ambush, according to the official citation for his medal.
Fujii fought off enemy troops for 17 hours in Laos during a frantic 1971 evacuation effort.
Birdwell helped evacuate colleagues near Saigon during the Tet Offensive in January 1968 despite being shot in the face and torso.
Duffy assisted in a daring 1972 evacuation of injured soldiers while directing fire on Viet Cong positions.
Duffy “made sure he was the last to board the helicopter and finally the airship was ready to depart [and] one of his Vietnamese allies was shot in the foot, causing him to fall backwards out of the helicopter. Major Duffy caught him and dragged him back in,” Biden said.
Biden, 79, is of the same generation that fought the Vietnam War, but received draft deferments and was not among the roughly 2.7 million Americans sent to South Vietnam to fight off the ultimately victorious Communist onslaught.