Airman to receive Posthumous Medal of Honor
Washington (CNN) -- President Obama will award the Medal of Honor, the military's highest award for bravery, to Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Richard Etchberger for his valor in saving the lives of three wounded comrades at a then-secret base in Laos in 1968, the White House announced Friday.
After Etchberger saved his fellow airmen, he was shot and killed by enemy fighters.
His heroics were kept a secret for years because the United States wasn't supposed to have troops in Laos during the Vietnam War. President Lyndon Johnson rejected a nomination for Etchberger to receive the Medal of Honor at the time because of the political trouble it could have stirred up.
Etchberger was part of a secret U.S. Air Force radar base in northern Laos, just 120 miles from Hanoi in North Vietnam. The base's purpose was to guide U.S. bomber crews on their missions over North Vietnam and parts of Laos that were under communist control.
Laos was officially neutral during the war, but its leaders were upset that North Vietnamese troops and Viet Cong guerrillas were moving through Laos to attack U.S. troops in South Vietnam. So the Lao government allowed construction of the U.S. radar site provided it was kept secret, according to Tom Keany, an Air Force B-52 squadron commander during the Vietnam War and currently a military historian with the School for Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University.
RIP Chief Master Sergeant. This honor is long over due.
Thank you to DUmmie RamboLiberal for bringing this to my attention, despite trying to politicize it.