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National & International News

Special Forces Medic During Vietnam War Presented With Medal Of Honor

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Today at the White House, President Trump presented the Medal of Honor, the nation's top military decoration, to retired Army Captain Gary Rose. He was a medic during the Vietnam War.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: You've earned the eternal gratitude of the entire American nation.

SIEGEL: Rose was credited with saving dozens of comrades during a secret and dangerous mission into Laos, a mission that remained classified for nearly three decades. NPR's Tom Bowman has more.

TOM BOWMAN, BYLINE: Rose and the other Green Berets were told to bring extra ammunition on that September day in 1970. Soon they bundled into heavy-lift helicopters with their Vietnamese allies called the Montagnards and were banking northeast into Laos. The heavy fire started even before they landed in the dense jungle.

GARY ROSE: We started taking ground fire. The rounds hitting the hull sounds like popcorn popping.

BOWMAN: Popping that wounded two Montagnard troops. And that was just the start. The troops spilled out into the jungle and the firing continued. Over the next four days, Rose sometimes crawled and pulled wounded troops to safety.

ROSE: Your job as a medic is to go where the wounded are. So you get there as safely as possible, and then you pull the injured to some place that - and I use the term relatively safe - where you can work on them without having to hopefully become a casualty yourself.

BOWMAN: Rose did become a casualty. An anti-tank round slammed into some thick bamboo, raining splinters and shrapnel and wounding Rose in the foot. The Americans spent three nights in the jungle with Rose shielding some of the wounded from North Vietnamese troops.

ROSE: You could hear them tromping through the jungle looking for us. We were lucky in the fact that they couldn't find us or didn't find us very well.

BOWMAN: And even when they were evacuated the trouble didn't end. His helicopter took fire and crash-landed, and Rose continued to treat even more wounded.

ROSE: It's probably - it's about as worse a nightmare you could possibly have and still be awake.

BOWMAN: Rose received the second-highest award for valor, the Distinguished Service Cross, a few months after the battle. But soon his commander and later others pushed for an upgrade to the Medal of Honor. Rose said the award is for the estimated 2,000 men who served in what was known as MACV-SOG, a secretive group that would tie up some 50,000 North Vietnamese troops heading south to fight the Americans. Without that effort, Rose says, there would be a lot more American dead listed on the Vietnam wall.

ROSE: The numbers of names on the wall would probably be a lot greater than 58,000 if these guys had not done what they did.

BOWMAN: Tom Bowman, NPR News, Washington.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.