U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center validates history of Medal of Honor recipient

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CARLISLE, Pa. -- Pres. Barack Obama will award Army Lt. Col. Charles Kettles the Medal of Honor on July 18.

The Medal of Honor is the nation's highest honor awarded to members of armed forces. Only about 3,500 individuals have received this award.

Kettles was a flight commander assigned to the 176th Aviation Company in the Vietnam War.

On May 15, 1967, he led a platoon of helicopters to provide support to the 101st Airborne Division during an ambush in Duc Pho.

Kettles led several trips to evacuate soldiers.

Dr. Michael Lynch, a research historian for the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center, said, "He was in a UH-1 helicopter that was tacked with mortars and damaged heavily. He flew back to his base, offloaded, got a new helicopter and flew back and rescued more."

Kettles saved the lives of more than 40 soldiers. The U.S. Army asked the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center in Carlisle to provide historical background information on Kettles' unit.

Historians at the Center discovered they had more information on Kettles' than they realized.

They were not told Kettles was being considered for the Medal of Honor at that time.

"We had an official unit history from that company and we also had after-action reports from the unit he supported during the action," Lynch said.

Kettles was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross - the second-highest military award.

"Just a couple of years ago an amateur historian had apparently interviewed Col. kettles and thought that his actions deserved a Medal of Honor," Lynch said.

The Medal of Honor typically is awarded within 5 years of a recipient's actions. But that historian lobbied Congress to pass legislation to allow another look into Kettles' actions, and his efforts paid off.

Lynch said anyone can come to the Center and review materials they used to research Kettles' unit.

"It's both humbling and thrilling to be part of an action that results in the award of the Medal of Honor," he said.