From: Tom Brune [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Monday, July 18, 2016 12:13 PM
To: Gabriel, Brian A. EOP/WHO
Subject: White House print pool report #1, 7/18/2016
Obama presents Medal of Honor to Vietnam Vet
Obama awarded the Medal of Honor in an East Room ceremony today to retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Charles S. Kettles, who as a helicopter commander in Viet Nam in 1967 is credited with repeatedly flying into harm's way to save the lives of 44 American soldiers pinned down by enemy fire.
Obama escorted Kettles, in full uniform, to the platform in an East Room crowded with the Kettles family, military veterans and lawmakers. After a chaplain delivered a prayer, Obama told Kettles story, calling him "Chuck" and saying his colleagues compared him to John Wayne - but that John Wayne couldn't do what Kettles did.
Saying Kettles life is "as American as they come," Obama noted Kettles was the son of immigrants and like his father became a flyer. He served as a Republican on his municipal council and was a teacher, businessman and reservist. And, Obama added, Kettles is humble.
Kettles, Obama said, remarked, "This seems like a hell of a lot of fuss for something that happened 50 years ago."
But Obama described the harrowing heroics of Kettles, flying out once and volunteering to return three times to evacuate troops - despite damage to the Huey's from gunshots and mortars.
Afterward, Kettles spoke briefly to the news media outside the West Wing, pointing out 74 helicopter pilots took part and that "the only thing that matters" is the rescue of the 44 soldiers and crew members.
The ceremony was open press and streamed live on the White House website. As always, check quotes against official transcript.
Among those in the room were Roland Sheck, Kettles gunner who was injured in the forays, and Dewey Smith, the last soldier Kettles picked up. They and other in that battle stood to applause.
Also in the room were his wife of nearly 40 years, eight of his 10 children and three grandchildren.
Army Secretary Eric Fanning, VA Secretary Robert McDonald, Obama chief of staff Denis McDonough and Debbie Dingell, wife of Rep. John Dingell also attended.
The presentation of the country’s highest military honor nearly 50 years after his actions is an upgrade of the Distinguished Service Cross that was previously given to Kettles, 86, who retired from the Army in 1978 and lives with his wife Ann in Ypsilanti, Mich.
The award was the result of a campaign begun by his family and supporters in 2012 and the Congressional legislation sponsored by Michigan federal lawmakers that made it possible after it was passed as part of the omnibus spending bill in December.
The ceremony was followed by a reception.
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