On Sept. 11, 1970, then-Sgt. Gary “Mike” Rose was the only medic among a group of 136 men who were inserted by helicopter in Laos to create a diversion for the North Vietnamese Army and gather intelligence on the lower reaches of the Ho Chi Minh trail.
Over the ensuing four days, Rose treated more than 60 of them for injuries, saving the lives of all but three. For his heroic efforts, President Trump awarded him the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award for valor, on Monday in a White House ceremony.
Rose, 15 other members of Military Assistance Command, Vietnam-Studies and Observations Group, along with dozens of South Vietnamese troops and indigenous Montagnard fighters were immediately under attack before setting down in Laos on the first day of Operation Tailwind.
The casualties came quickly and constantly, including a shrapnel wound that blasted through one of Rose’s feet.
“For the next 48 excruciating hours, he used a branch as a crutch,” Trump said. “Mike did not stop to eat or sleep or to care for his own serious injury.”
Instead, he focused on keeping everyone else alive and comfortable.
“He crawled from one soldier to the next, offering words of encouragement, as he tended to their wounds,” Trump said.
As soon as he boarded the medevac back to base on Sept. 14, it was shot down by enemy fire a mile from where it originally set down.
“As Mike puts it, ‘If you don’t believe in God, then you should have been with us that day. And I can tell you, it will make a believer out of you, because we should not [ever] have survived,’” Trump said.
In addition to family and nine previous recipients of the Medal of Honor, Rose was joined Monday by 11 of his MACV-SOG team members, as well as Marine and Air Force helicopter crew members who had provided support throughout the mission.
“If it weren’t for those air crews, all of us would still be in Laos,” Trump said, quoting Rose.
Rose is the second Vietnam veteran to receive the Medal of Honor this year.
Both men originally received lower-ranking valor awards but got their upgrades after decades of lobbying and special waivers in the National Defense Authorization Act to receive them more than five years after the action.
“With every action during those four days, Mike valiantly fought for the lives of his comrades, even if it meant the end of his own life,” Trump said.
Following the ceremony, Rose told reporters that he was accepting the award on behalf of all of MACV-SOG and his fellow Vietnam veterans who continue to serve their communities.
“To a larger extent, I want to accept this in honor of all the men and women who fought in that era,” Rose said. “They served our country with great courage and great valor.”