Etchberger was nominated for the Medal of Honor in 1968, but President Lyndon B. Johnson didn’t approve it. Military officials instead awarded Etchberger the Air Force Cross.
This is where the story gets complicated.
Johnson didn’t sign off on the award because the U.S. wasn’t supposed to have troops in Laos, and at the time of his death, Etchberger wasn’t technically in the Air Force.
“[Lima Site 85] was established and operated by American technicians in a manner designed not to violate the 1962 Geneva Agreements and to ‘guarantee’ the ‘neutrality’ of Laos,” according to declassified top secret Air Force report, “The Fall of Site 85.”