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Fort Campbell’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team Honors the Valorous on National Medal of Honor Day

3rd BCT Public Affairs, 101st Airborne Division (AASLT)

RakkasanFort Campbell KY, 101st Airborne DivisionFort Campbell, KY – While facing insurmountable odds with their backs against a wall and their comrades’ lives at stake; brave men and women, without hesitation, place the well-being of others before their own. Today we remember these brave and courageous warriors.

In 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed a bill creating the Medal of Honor. The distinguished award was designed to recognize those whom displayed valorous actions while serving on the battlefield, “The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, presents this unique award.

Today, March 25th, marks the 149th anniversary of the first presentation of the medal in 1863.

Col. R.J. Lillibridge (left), Commander, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), explains to Spc. Jao Pelicano (right), an infantryman from Cebu City, Philippines, assigned to the 1st Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd BCT, 101st ABN DIV, the story of Cpl. Rodolfo P. Hernandez and the significance of the decoration while standing in front of the Medal of Honor memorial inside 3rd BCT headquarters here at Fort Campbell, Ky. Photo by: Army Staff Sgt. Abram Pinnington 3rd BCT Public Affairs.
3rd Brigade Combat Team (3rd BCT) Commander Col. R.J. Lillibridge (left), relates the story of Medal of Honor Recipient Cpl. Rodolfo P. Hernandez to Spc. Jao Pelicano (right), an infantryman from Cebu City, Philippines, in front of the Medal of Honor memorial inside 3rd BCT headquarters at Fort Campbell, Ky. (Staff Sgt. Abram Pinnington/3rd BCT Public Affairs).

On that day back in 1863, six soldiers were given the award for their bravery during the Great Locomotive Chase in 1862.

Since the medal’s inception, there have been 3,458 recipients, 19 of whom were double awardees.

Some of the most recognizable and distinguished recipients include:

Most recently, Marine Sgt. Dakota Meyer was recognized for his heroism while serving in the mountains of Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom.

Within the ranks of the valorous, the 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, is home to four individual awardees.

“I’m very proud to be a part of an organization with four incredible awardees,” said Col. R.J. Lillibridge, Commander, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). He added, “the actions of these four men optimize the personal courage and duty expected of all Rakkasans.”

Each awardees personal story and situation is unique and holds a level of personal courage rarely witnessed, Lillibridge expressed.

The awardees from the 3rd BCT have a unique story of courage and selfless service.

Pfc. Richard G. Wilson

Medical Company, 187th Airborne Infantry Regiment

Pfc. Richard G. Wilson
Pfc. Richard G. Wilson

Pfc. Richard G. Wilson distinguished himself for having courage to willingly self-sacrifice for the sake of others during combat operations in the Korean War.

While accompanying a unit near Opari, Korea, Oct. 21, 1950, Medical Company was ambushed by a barrage of automatic weapons and mortar fire. He moved among the wounded and administered aid under hostile fire.

After the unit was ordered to pull back, Wilson noticed a wounded soldier was still moving. He ignored the pleas of his fellow soldiers and went back to the ambush site to find the wounded soldier. Two days later, a patrol found his body lying next to the wounded soldier. He had been shot several times in attempts to shield the body while administering first-aid.

Pfc. Wilson distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action. As medical aid man attached to Company I, he accompanied the unit during a reconnaissance in force through the hilly country near Opari. The main body of the company was passing through a narrow valley flanked on 3 sides by high hills when the enemy laid down a barrage of mortar, automatic-weapons and small-arms fire. The company suffered a large number of casualties from the intense hostile fire while fighting its way out of the ambush. Pfc. Wilson proceeded at once to move among the wounded and administered aid to them oblivious of the danger to himself, constantly exposing himself to hostile fire. The company commander ordered a withdrawal as the enemy threatened to encircle and isolate the company. As his unit withdrew Private Wilson assisted wounded men to safety and assured himself that none were left behind. After the company had pulled back he learned that a comrade previously thought dead had been seen to be moving and attempting to crawl to safety. Despite the protests of his comrades, unarmed and facing a merciless enemy, Pfc. Wilson returned to the dangerous position in search of his comrade. Two days later a patrol found him lying beside the man he returned to aid. He had been shot several times while trying to shield and administer aid to the wounded man. Pfc. Wilson’s superb personal bravery, consummate courage and willing self-sacrifice for his comrades reflect untold glory upon himself and uphold the esteemed traditions of the military service.

Cpl. Rodolfo P. Hernandez

Company G, 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team

Cpl. Rodolfo P. Hernandez
Cpl. Rodolfo P. Hernandez

Cpl. Rodolfo P. Hernandez came under attack while serving on Hill 420 near Wontong-ni, Korea, May 31, 1951. The attack inflicted massive casualties onto his platoon.

Suffering a lack of ammunition, the platoon started to withdraw their positions.

Wounded by a grenade, Hernandez continued firing into the onrushing opposition until his rifle became inoperable. He then left his position, armed only with his rifle and a bayonet, ran fearlessly toward the enemy. While attacking, he killed six enemies before falling unconscious from grenade, bullet and bayonet wounds.

Because of his selfless service and heroics, Cpl. Hernandez gave his unit time to mount a counter attack and gain the ground they had lost during the assault.

Cpl. Hernandez, a member of Company G, distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action against the enemy. His platoon, in defensive positions on Hill 420, came under ruthless attack by a numerically superior and fanatical hostile force, accompanied by heavy artillery, mortar, and machine gun fire which inflicted numerous casualties on the platoon. His comrades were forced to withdraw due to lack of ammunition but Cpl. Hernandez, although wounded in an exchange of grenades, continued to deliver deadly fire into the ranks of the onrushing assailants until a ruptured cartridge rendered his rifle inoperative. Immediately leaving his position, Cpl. Hernandez rushed the enemy armed only with rifle and bayonet. Fearlessly engaging the foe, he killed 6 of the enemy before falling unconscious from grenade, bayonet, and bullet wounds but his heroic action momentarily halted the enemy advance and enabled his unit to counterattack and retake the lost ground. The indomitable fighting spirit, outstanding courage, and tenacious devotion to duty clearly demonstrated by Cpl. Hernandez reflect the highest credit upon himself, the infantry, and the U.S. Army.

Cpl. Lester Hammond, Jr.

Communication Specialist, Company A, 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team

Cpl. Lester Hammond, Jr.
Cpl. Lester Hammond, Jr.

Cpl. Lester Hammond, Jr. was conducting a reconnaissance patrol near Kumwha, Korea, Aug. 14, 1952. After his patrol had traveled over 3,500 yards into enemy-controlled territory, they were ambushed and partially surrounded by a large opposition force. After being wounded in the initial exchange of fire, Cpl. Hammond managed to withdraw up a ravine with his unit.

On the ravine he found a vantage point. Although his position was still vulnerable to enemy fire, Cpl. Hammond began to direct artillery fire that inflicted heavy casualties onto the Communist force. While coordinating fires, Hammond was wounded a second time. However, he refused to find safety in a different position and continued to direct fire onto the enemy until being mortally wounded.

Cpl. Hammond, a radio operator with Company A, distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and outstanding courage above and beyond the call of duty in action against the enemy. Cpl. Hammond was a member of a 6 man reconnaissance patrol which had penetrated approximately 3,500 yards into enemy-held territory. Ambushed and partially surrounded by a large hostile force, the small group opened fire, then quickly withdrew up a narrow ravine in search of protective cover. Despite a wound sustained in the initial exchange of fire and imminent danger of being overrun by the numerically superior foe, he refused to seek shelter and, remaining in an exposed place, called for artillery fire to support a defensive action. Constantly vulnerable to enemy observation and action, he coordinated and directed crippling fire on the assailants, inflicting heavy casualties and repulsing several attempts to overrun friendly positions. Although wounded a second time, he remained steadfast and maintained his stand until mortally wounded. His indomitable fighting spirit set an inspiring example of valor to his comrades and, through his actions, the onslaught was stemmed, enabling a friendly platoon to reach the beleaguered patrol, evacuate the wounded, and effect a safe withdrawal to friendly lines. Cpl. Hammond’s unflinching courage and consummate devotion to duty reflect lasting glory on himself and uphold the finest traditions of the military service.

Capt. Paul W. Bucha,

Commander, Company D, 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division

Capt. Paul W. Bucha
Capt. Paul W. Bucha

Capt. Paul W. Bucha, and his company air assaulted into Phuoc Vinh, Binh Duong Province, Republic of Vietnam, with orders to search and destroy a suspected enemy stronghold, Mar. 16, 1968. During the operation, Capt. Bucha’s lead element became engaged by a battalion-sized force. With his soldiers pinned down from a concealed bunker, Capt. Bucha, under hostile fire, crawled to the bunker and single-handedly destroyed the bunker with grenades while receiving wounds from the shrapnel.

After he returned, he soon realized his unit couldn’t repel the relentless enemy attack. He ordered the withdrawal of his unit and covered their movements to positions of a company perimeter. When one element was cut off by the advancing enemy, Capt. Bucha ordered his men to face death while he ordered dangerously close artillery fire around them.

In addition to that, while in direct view of enemy snipers, he coordinated three medical evacuations using flashlights to help get the seriously wounded out as well as resupply his unit. When the next day came, he led the rescue efforts to recover the dead and wounded soldiers of his unit.

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Capt. Bucha distinguished himself while serving as commanding officer, Company D, on a reconnaissance-in-force mission against enemy forces near Phuoc Vinh, The company was inserted by helicopter into the suspected enemy stronghold to locate and destroy the enemy. During this period Capt. Bucha aggressively and courageously led his men in the destruction of enemy fortifications and base areas and eliminated scattered resistance impeding the advance of the company. On 18 March while advancing to contact, the lead elements of the company became engaged by the heavy automatic weapon, heavy machine gun, rocket propelled grenade, Claymore mine and small-arms fire of an estimated battalion-size force. Capt. Bucha, with complete disregard for his safety, moved to the threatened area to direct the defense and ordered reinforcements to the aid of the lead element. Seeing that his men were pinned down by heavy machine gun fire from a concealed bunker located some 40 meters to the front of the positions, Capt. Bucha crawled through the hail of fire to single-handedly destroy the bunker with grenades. During this heroic action Capt. Bucha received a painful shrapnel wound. Returning to the perimeter, he observed that his unit could not hold its positions and repel the human wave assaults launched by the determined enemy. Capt. Bucha ordered the withdrawal of the unit elements and covered the withdrawal to positions of a company perimeter from which he could direct fire upon the charging enemy. When 1 friendly element retrieving casualties was ambushed and cut off from the perimeter, Capt. Bucha ordered them to feign death and he directed artillery fire around them. During the night Capt. Bucha moved throughout the position, distributing ammunition, providing encouragement and insuring the integrity of the defense. He directed artillery, helicopter gunship and Air Force gunship fire on the enemy strong points and attacking forces, marking the positions with smoke grenades. Using flashlights in complete view of enemy snipers, he directed the medical evacuation of 3 air-ambulance loads of seriously wounded personnel and the helicopter supply of his company. At daybreak Capt. Bucha led a rescue party to recover the dead and wounded members of the ambushed element. During the period of intensive combat, Capt. Bucha, by his extraordinary heroism, inspirational example, outstanding leadership and professional competence, led his company in the decimation of a superior enemy force which left 156 dead on the battlefield. His bravery and gallantry at the risk of his life are in the highest traditions of the military service, Capt. Bucha has reflected great credit on himself, his unit, and the U.S. Army.

These four soldiers exemplify the very structure the Army was built upon: loyalty, duty, respect, selfless-service, honor, integrity, and personal courage.

“If you ever have the honor to meet a Medal of Honor recipient, you will be astonished by the humility they posses in receiving the nation’s highest military honor,” Lillibridge said. He concluded, “they will all say they were just doing their duty.”

National Medal of Honor Day

The 3 Present Day Variations of the Medal Of Honor (Congressional Medal of Honor Society)
The 3 Present Day Variations of the Medal Of Honor (Congressional Medal of Honor Society)

U.S. Rep. Rod D. Chandler (R-WA)
U.S. Rep. Rod D. Chandler (R-WA)

Congress dedicated March 25th as National Medal of Honor Day which was introduced by Rep. Rod D. Chandler (R-WA), with 151 co-sponsors, it passed into law as Public Law 101-564

Whereas the Medal of Honor is the highest distinction that can be awarded by the President, in the name of the Congress, to members of the Armed Forces who have distinguished themselves conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of their lives above and beyond the call of duty;

Whereas only a few of the millions of men and women who have served the Nation in war, military operations, or other armed conflicts have received the Medal of Honor;

Whereas the 1st Medal of Honor awards were presented to 6 men on March 25, 1863, by the Secretary of War;

Whereas it is appropriate to honor the heroic recipients of the Medal of Honor;

Whereas public awareness of the importance of the Medal of Honor has declined in recent years; and

Whereas the designation of National Medal of Honor Day will focus the efforts of national, State, and local organizations striving to foster public appreciation and recognition of Medal of Honor recipients: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

    That March 25, 1991, is designated as `National Medal of Honor Day’, and the President is authorized and requested to issue a proclamation calling on the people of the United States to observe the day with appropriate ceremonies and activities.
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Abram Pinnington
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Abram Pinningtonhttp://www.facebook.com/rakkasan.pao
Currently, I am the Non-Commissioned Officer In Charge of the 3rd Brigade Public Affairs staff, 101st Airborne Division, at Fort Campbell, Ky. A graduate of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, with a degree in Biology, I decided to serve in the United States Army after my father passed away in Dec. 2001. Being that he served in Vietnam as an infantryman in the US Marines, I decided to go the same route as my father. When I was told by the Marine Corps they could not guarantee that I would be an infantryman, due to my high test scores, I decided to go to the Army where they could guarantee me, in-writing, a future in the infantry. However, while in basic training I was selected and given orders to report to where I had the honor and privilege of serving within the 3rd United Stated Infantry Regiment, The Old Guard, in Fort Myer, Va. While stationed there I had the distinct honor of participating in full-honor military funerals in Arlington National Cemetary. While at Fort Myer, I successfully completed a training program and was accepted into the Continental Color Guard where I had the honor of being a part in major events such as: President Bush's second inauguration, President Regan's funeral (California sequence), President Clinton's Presidential Library grand opening ceremony, World War II memorial dedication ceremony, President Ford's funeral, 2004 World Series (games 3&4), 2005 Super Bowl, 2004 MLB All-Star Game, 9 NASCAR Nextel Cup Series races, 3 Monday Night Football games, and my personal favorite; The Pope Benedict XVI visit with President Bush in 2007. In 2005, I was selected to become the 81st member of the Presidential Escort Team, known as the "Hawk Team." During my tenure in the Hawk Team, my duty description entailed escorting the President of the United States within the walls of the White House whenever a foreign figure of importance would arrive. I was personally engaged by and stood next to some of the world's most powerful men and women during my two-year duty inside the White House. Some of the most notable international figures I had the pleasure of escorting were: Russian President Vladimir Putin, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Chinese President Hu Jintao, Israeli Prime Minister BenjaminNetanyahu, Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan, Japanese Prime Minister  Junichiro Koizumi (escorted at the White House and Graceland, Tn), Queen Elizabeth II, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, President Jimmy Carter, President Bill Clinton, President George H. W. Bush, and primarily escorted President George W. Bush. In 2007, I was selected by the Department of the Army to serve as a recruiter in Fort Wayne, In. There, I served four years as a recruiter, recruiter team leader and assistant station commander. While assigned to the United States Army Recruiting Command I earned the prestigious Glen E. Morrel Award for Recruiting Excellence. In 2010, I decided to pursue my dreams of working in Major League Baseball. I changed my military occupation specialty to Public Affairs so I could work my way to have the best resume I could possibly have to help land a MLB public relations or community relations position some day. While currently serving as the PAO NCOIC at Fort Campbell, Ky, I am studying for a second undergraduate degree in Public Relations and plan to graduate from Syracuse University in 2014. I am blessed to have a wonderful and loving wife, Lindsay. Without her, I wouldn't be half the person I am today. It takes a strong woman to be a military spouse and she does it effortlessly. I am lucky to have such an amazing women next to me. When I have spare time in the Spring and Summer, I find myself watching baseball (GO CUBBIES!), camping, wine tasting, and enjoying the outdoors. During the fall and winter, it is a safe bet I can be found in a duck blind or in the brush hunting quail or pheasant with my Hungarian Vizsla, "Gus." I'm firm believer that hard work pays off. Dream big, work hard.... but enjoy life while you're at it.  
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