‘You get knocked down, you get back up’

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Medal of Honor recipient and DAV life member has made giving back his life mission

Retired U.S. Army Capt. Gary “Mike” Rose gives his remarks during his Medal of Honor induction ceremony Oct. 24, 2017. Rose was awarded the Medal of Honor for actions during Operation Tailwind in southeastern Laos during the Vietnam War, Sept. 11–14, 1970. (Photo by Spc. Tammy Nooner/U.S. Army)

Nearly a half century after his heroic actions during the Vietnam War, Army Capt. Gary “Mike” Rose, a life member of DAV Chapter 26 in Huntsville, Ala., has received the Medal of Honor.

Rose enlisted during the height of the war. Already the recipient of a Purple Heart and Bronze Star with Valor for a previous mission, then-Sgt. Rose was serving as a Special Forces combat medic during Operation Tailwind when he, along with 16 American and 120 Montagnard (indigenous Vietnamese) fighters, was inserted deep inside North Vietnamese Army-controlled Laos on Sept. 11, 1970.

For four days, a bloody battle raged. Of the 16 Americans on that mission, not one left Laos unscathed. In all, 33 Purple Hearts were awarded, including two to Rose. Despite overwhelming enemy force, debilitating injuries and a helicopter crash during the final mission extraction, Rose never gave up. His selfless efforts to safeguard his fellow soldiers resulted in his Medal of Honor nomination.

In October, Rose received the nation’s highest military honor in a ceremony presented by President Donald Trump.

“Your will to endure, your love for your fellow soldier, your devotion to your country inspires us all,” said Trump. “I have to tell you, that is something. Nations are formed out of the strength and patriotism that lives in the hearts of our heroes.”

Rose said he considers the award collective, shared by all the men he served with in that battle. Ten were at the White House to see him receive the medal.

“I saw incredible courage,” said Rose. “From my perspective … almost any one of them on that operation could have been tapped to receive the medal.”

“You get knocked down, you get back up,” Rose said three times, explaining a mantra that he grew up with and carried along with him during his military career. “If you don’t get back up—on your own or with help—nothing will be solved. You’ll still be laying there, and whatever was going to happen will happen anyway. Dust yourself off and keep moving.”

Rose said that resilience has been ingrained in Americans since the nation’s birth. He sees that spirit in people of all ages throughout all walks of life, frequently in public servants and veterans.

“They refuse to give up. It’s in their nature to never say die,” said Rose of his fellow ill and injured veterans.

“Mike’s selfless dedication to those he served with illustrates why he received this high honor,” said Washington Headquarters Executive Director Garry Augustine, a fellow Vietnam veteran. “He is an inspiration to all who served and is a reminder to veterans that we overcame adversity in the military, and we can do the same on the road to recovery.”

Volunteering has been an essential part of Rose’s life as a civilian, and he is committed to giving back to the community in Alabama that he has called home the past 12 years.

“Service has many shades,” said Rose, who sees it as a personal obligation to give back but stresses there are many different ways to do so.

DAV’s mission of service is what prompted the Army veteran to join the organization.

“DAV stands for helping improve the quality of life for veterans and ensuring those who have been injured are not left hanging in the wind,” he explained. “And I said, what better means to help support DAV than by becoming a member?”

 

 

U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Gary M. Rose, Field Artillery, Fort Sill, Okla., 1975. (Courtesy of Gary M. Rose)

Medal of Honor
Sgt. Gary M. Rose
United States Army

On Oct. 23, 2017, President Donald J. Trump presented the Medal of Honor to Capt. Gary M. Rose for his conspicuous gallantry and intrepid actions during service in Operation Tailwind, Sept. 11–14, 1970. Per the citation, then-Sergeant Rose:

  • Braved the hail of bullets to sprint 50 meters to a wounded soldier’s side.
  • Used his own body to protect the casualty from further injury while treating his wounds and then carried him through the bullet-ridden combat zone to protective cover.
  • Continuously exposed himself to intense fire as he fearlessly moved from casualty to casualty, administering life-saving aid.
  • Ignored his own wounds to render aid to the other injured soldiers, estimated to be half of the company’s personnel.
  • Returned to the outer perimeter under enemy fire, carrying friendly casualties and moving wounded personnel to more secure positions until they could be evacuated.
  • Returned to the perimeter to help repel the enemy until the final extraction helicopter arrived.
  • Administered critical medical treatment onboard the helicopter, saving the life of the helicopter’s Marine door gunner.
  • Pulled and carried unconscious and wounded personnel out of burning helicopter wreckage, despite his own injuries, and continued to administer aid to the wounded until another extraction helicopter arrived.