Kilmer, McMorris Rodgers Push to Honor Vietnam Veterans

March 31, 2021 by TWN Staff
A section of the Vietnam War memorial. (Photo by Dan McCue)

WASHINGTON – Reps. Derek Kilmer, D-Wash., and Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., are leading a bipartisan effort to award so-called “Dust Off” crews of the Vietnam War with the Congressional Gold Medal. 

Dust Off crewmembers – helicopter air ambulance pilots, crew chiefs, and medics – performed aeromedical evacuation of over 900,000 U.S., Vietnamese, and allied forces from May 1962 to March 1973.

“Years after the end of the Vietnam War, too many of our Vietnam veterans have not been sufficiently recognized for their service and their sacrifice. That remains true for the incredible members of the Dust Off crews – who valiantly rescued so many,” Kilmer said. 

“Awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to the Dust Off crews of the Vietnam War will be an important step toward recognizing the pivotal role that these service members played in saving the lives of so many and serving their country proudly. I’ll keep pushing to see that it comes to fruition so we can demonstrate our appreciation on behalf of a grateful nation,” he said.

McMorris Rodgers said the men and women who served in Vietnam have gone unrecognized for their bravery and sacrifice – despite incredible risk they faced to their own lives.

“It’s well-past time we recognize these men and women for their heroism and service to our nation by awarding them a Congressional Gold Medal,” she said.

Dust Off units in Vietnam often faced bad weather, mountainous terrain, and intense enemy fire – with crewmembers facing a one in three chance of being wounded or killed. 

One Dust Off unit, the 54th Medical Detachment, typified the heroism of Dust Off crews. Over 10 months with only three helicopters and 40 soldiers, it evacuated 21,435 patients on 8,644 missions over 4,832 hours. It earned 78 valor awards.

Since the American Revolution, Congress has commissioned gold medals as its highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions. Yet the Congressional Gold Medal has never been awarded to any veterans of the Vietnam War. 

The “Dust Off Crews of the Vietnam War” Congressional Gold Medal Act of 2021 would change that by awarding a single Congressional Gold Medal collectively to all Dust Off crewmembers.

U.S. Senator John Cornyn, R-Texas, is expected to introduce companion legislation in the Senate.

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