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Team Sergeant
03-19-2008, 12:39
Medal of Honor recipients visit throughout AFCENT

Medal of Honor recipients retired Army Col. Robert L. Howard and retired Marine Capt. John J. McGinty III visit Army Private Andrew Knar March 15 at the hospital at Manas Air Base, Kyrgyzstan. The Medal of Honor recipients spoke at several local engagements on their stop at Manas AB before touring other locations in the U.S. Air Forces Central area of responsibility. Both received their medals from actions taken during the Vietnam War. (U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Tabitha Kuykendall)

by Tech. Sgt. Jerome Baysmore
376th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

3/18/2008 - MANAS AIR BASE, Kyrgyzstan (AFPN) -- Manas Air Base Airmen, Soldiers and transitory personnel got a firsthand glimpse into history this week.

Three Medal of Honor recipients from the Vietnam War toured the base and spoke at several local engagements on their stop here before touring other locations in the U.S. Air Forces Central area of responsibility.

Retired Army Col. Robert L. Howard, Marine Capt. John J. McGinty III and Army Command Sgt. Maj. Gary L. Littrell highlighted Manas Air Base's contributions in the war on terrorism.

"Americans appreciate the great service you've provided for our country," Colonel Howard said. "Democracy is very demanding."

Colonel Howard was awarded his medal for his actions in Vietnam. As a sergeant first class, he served as a platoon sergeant of an American-Vietnamese platoon. The platoon was attacked by an estimated two-company force. Although he was wounded and unable to walk, he crawled through heavy gunfire to retrieve his wounded leader and rejoin the platoon. He rallied the platoon into an organized defensive force, administered first aid and directed the defenders to repulse enemy attacks for three and a half hours.

In addition to his Medal of Honor, Colonel Howard has two Distinguished Service Crosses and eight Purple Hearts.

"I spent 37 years in the military, Korea and Vietnam. I've been fighting a war all my life," he said. "I'm fortunate to have served with Americans like you. In your heart, you love why you wear that uniform."

He also had advice for some of today's Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors and Marines during a small meet and greet session held in the chapel Saturday.

"Do the job the best you can and don't ask for help if you don't plan to use the help," Colonel Howard said.

Captain McGinty echoed the same sentiments with, "I see no difference in today's servicemembers. You're still as talented and determined -- you do just as well. Thank you for what you do."

Captain McGinty was a staff sergeant and part of a 32-man platoon which came under heavy fire and two of the squads became separated from the platoon. He charged through intense automatic weapons and mortar fire to their position. When he found 20 men wounded and the medical corpsman killed, he quickly reloaded ammunition magazines and weapons for the wounded men and directed their fire upon the enemy. When the enemy tried to out-flank his position, he killed five of them at point-blank range with his pistol. The enemy nearly overran the small force again, but he adjusted artillery and air strikes within 50 yards of his position and routed the enemy, who left an estimated 500 bodies on the battlefield.

Captain McGinty passed his medal around a group of Airmen at one of the gatherings, and as it passed hand to hand he recollected on the day of the battle.

"I wear that medal for the 78 young men that made it possible for me to make it out and for me to be here," he said.

Command Sgt. Maj. Littrell was delayed but arrived in time to join Colonel Howard and Captain McGinty for their downrange tour.

During the war, as a sargeant first class, Command Sgt. Maj. Littrell's battalion was under attack which killed the Vietnamese commander, one advisor, and seriously wounded all the advisors except him. During the ensuing four days, he directed artillery and air support by day and marked the unit's location by night, despite the heavy, concentrated enemy fire. He redistributed ammunition, strengthened faltering defenses, cared for the wounded and shouted encouragement to the Vietnamese in their own language. His battalion was attacked again after they were ordered to withdraw. He directed air strikes to within 50 meters of their position and averted excessive loss of life and injury to the members of the battalion.

"(Their visit) was amazing," said Airman 1st Class Janice Goldstein with the 376th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron. "You could tell that they're proud of the military, and they were full of advice and experience. It was interesting to hear the views of someone who saw death but as the times got tough, they kept going and put everybody else first."

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