MOH LTC Kettles & 327th Brave Rifles
How LTC Kettles Earned the Medal of Honor
- Distinguished Service Cross Citation
Leon Mack Wessel, Jr.
- Memorable Combat Experience
Donald E. Long
LTC, IN, Ret
by Dewey Smith B-1/327
Monday, the 18th of July I was honored to be able to attend the award of the Medal Of Honor to LTC (Ret.) Kettles at the White House. The building is beautiful, a fitting place for our president to live, and it was crowded for the ceremony. President Obama gave a very good speech detailing the events that took place for which LTC Kettles was receiving this award for bravery above and beyond the call of duty on the battlefield. LTC Kettles was credited with saving 44 American lives that day and I was one of those 44.
After the ceremony LTC Kettles was able to attend a private meeting with President Obama followed by a reception there at the white house. The food was unique and quite delicious. I had never seen so much brass and so many dignitaries in my life. To my surprise the wife and I were able to have a lengthy conversation with the Deputy Chief of the Army, General McConville.
On the way to the white house from the hotel there was a special van for LTC Kettles and his immediate family. The other guests and his “battle buddies”, of which he considered me one, were riding in a convoy of buses. There was a couple of police cruisers and about 8 motorcycle policemen to escort and clear traffic for us. It was really something to travel the streets of DC and especially the freeway having all the traffic pull over and stop clearing a way for us too proceed.
One high light of the trip was finding out that Col Boyer and CSM Manning, currently in charge of my old outfit the 1st Bn 327th Inf, were staying at the same hotel as my wife and I. We got to have several conversations and adult beverages with them. They struck me as being extremely capable Above The Rest, Bastogne Bulldogs and it gave me a good feeling knowing the 1/327 was in good hands.
The following day we were again loaded on buses and taken to the Pentagon where LTC Kettles was to be inducted into the Hall Of Heroes. The Secretary Of Defense, the Secretary Of The Army, and the Vice-Secretary Of The Army all gave speeches concerning the bravery of LTC Kettles and all three did an outstanding job. The plaque to be hung in the Hall Of Heroes with LTC Kettles name on it was unveiled, and the Medal Of Honor flag was presented to him.
Following the ceremony LTC Kettles and his “battle buddies” were given a tour of the Pentagon. After the tour we had a formal lunch there that had been prepared by the Pentagon chef and his staff. The food was exceptional and the company quite pleasant. During the dinner LTC Kettles was presented with a speed indicator from a huey similar to the one he flew in Vietnam. He then was given a framed bill from the Department Of The Army for over four million dollars for the hueys he had gotten destroyed that day back in 1967. LTC Kettles told me that during his 2 tours of duty in Vietnam he had a total of 19 hueys destroyed and that he was sure glad he wasn’t getting a bill for all of them. We then got to go to the office of The Secretary Of Defense and the office of the Secretary Of The Army and were able to have long pleasant conversations with each.
That night we attended a formal dinner at a very swank restaurant on the 15th floor of one of the top end hotels in downtown DC. From the balcony there was a great view of the city but especially the White House and the Washington monument. It was a small gathering of only 92 people. Although I felt I was way out of my league it was great experience and the wife and I had a wonderful time.
I was able to pick up 4 souvenirs during the 2 days this was happening. I received a challenge coin
from the Secretary Of Defense, the Secretary Of The Army, the Vice Chief of Staff and best of all one from Col Boyer, commander of the 1/327. On getting these challenge coins the only thing I can say is “eat your heart out David J”.
In all seriousness the best thing that happened those two days was getting to meet 4 Medal Of Honor Recipients, getting to shake their hands and be there when the man that saved my life received his Medal Of Honor.