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Trump Awards Medal of Honor to Vietnam War Medic. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired October 23, 2017 - 15:30   ET


[15:30:00] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are honored to be in their presence. This afternoon, I want to take a few moments to share with you the incredible story of Mike's heroic deeds. Raised in Watertown, New York, Mike's father was a metal worker and a World War II veteran. He taught his son that we live in the greatest country in the world, and that we must love it, cherish it and always defend it. Mike took that very much to heart. After his first year in college he enlisted in the Army and by the time he was 22 Mike was a medic for the 5th Special Forces group in the Vietnam War.

On September 11, 1970, Mike was called on his second combat mission. He was the only medic for 136 men who embarked on one of the group's biggest missions of the war, Operation Tailwind. Their goal was to prevent the North Vietnamese from funneling weapons along the Ho Chi Minh Trail to use against our American troops. Helicopters dropped the unit into Laos. Before they even touched the ground, enemy fire struck three men. Once they landed in the clearing they rushed to the jungle for much-needed cover.

Soon, another man was shot outside their defensive perimeter. Mike immediately rushed to his injured comrade firing at the enemy as he ran. In the middle of the clearing, under the machine gun fire, Mike treated the wounded soldier. He shielded the man with his own body and carried him back to safety, but this was just the beginning of Mike's harrowing, four-day mission.

Mike and his unit slashed through the dense jungle, dodged bullets, dodged explosives and dodged everything that you can dodge because they threw it all at him. And continuously returned fire as they moved deeper and deeper and deeper into enemy territory. Throughout the engagement, Mike rescued those in distress without any thought for his own safety. I will tell you, the people with him could not believe what they were witnessing. He crawled from one soldier to the next offering words of encouragement as he tended to their wounds.

On the second day one of the allied soldiers was shot outside their company perimeter. Again, Mike raced to the side of the soldier, exposing himself to constant fire as bullets flew in every direction Mike fired at the enemy with one arm while dragging the injured soldier back to the perimeter with the other. Soon after they returned to the unit, a rocket-propelled grenade exploded nearby and shot smoldering metal into Mike's back and into his leg. He was seriously, seriously wounded.

The shrapnel left a gaping hole in Mike's foot. For the next 48 excruciating hours, he used a branch as a crutch and went on rescuing the wounded. Mike did not stop to eat, to sleep or even to care for his own serious injury as he saved the lives of his fellow soldiers. On the second and final night of the mission, the enemy surrounded the company. All night long Mike treated the wound and dug trenches to protect them from blazing rockets and grenades.

After four days of constant engagement with the enemy, and after successfully destroying an enemy base camp, Mike's unit prepared to evacuate. When the helicopters arrived, Mike fought back the enemy as his fellow soldiers boarded the aircraft. He boarded the last chopper, limping up to the craft while still warding off the enemy forces that were fast approaching.

[15:35:00] 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. Mike, today we have a room full of people and a nation who, thank God that you lived.

Mike's story doesn't end there. Soon after the helicopter lifted off the ground the chopper was hit by enemy fire. Mike, this is serious stuff. This was not a good four days. The bullets tragically struck a young Marine gunner in the throat. Again, Mike rushed to help as he wrapped the cloth around the Marine's neck, the engine of the helicopter failed, and the aircraft crashed less than a mile from where it had taken off. Mike was thrown off the aircraft before it hit the ground. But he raced back to the crash site and pulled one man after another out of the smoking and smoldering helicopter as it spewed jet fuel from its ruptured tanks.

Finally, another helicopter rescued them and by the time they reached the base Mike was covered in blood. He refused treatment until all of his men had been cared for first. In every action during those four days Mike valiantly fought for the life of his comrades even if it meant the end of his own life. Mike, you will -- I mean, I have to say, you really -- your will to endure, your love for your fellow soldier, your devotion to your country inspires us all. I have to tell you. That is something.

Nations are formed out of the strength and patriotism that lives in the hearts of our great heroes. Mike never knew for certain whether or not that Marine gunner who was shot on the helicopter survived until earlier this year when Mike learned that the Marine had endured a painful and difficult recovery, but that he had made it and lived a long and very full life before passing away in 2012. As Mike said, that in itself made it all worth it.

That Marine was one of many men Mike saved. Throughout those four days Mike treated an astounding 60 to 70 men. Their company disrupted the enemy's continual resupply of weapons, saving countless of additional American lives. Today, we are joined by many of Mike's brothers in arms who fought alongside him in Operation Tailwind along with brave airmen and Marines who provided critical support throughout the mission.

As Mike put it, if it wasn't for those air crews, all of us would still be in Laos. Among those here today are ten members of Mike's unit. Please stand up as I call your name. Sergeant Major Morris Adair. Sergeant Don Boudreaux. First sergeant Bernie Bright. Captain Pete Landon. Sergeant Jim Lucas. Lieutenant Colonel Gene McCarley. First Sergeant Denver Minton. Sargent Keith Planchette and Specialist Five Craig Schmitt and Staff Sergeant Dave Young. Thank you very much.

To Mike and all of the service members who fought in the battle, you've earned the eternal gratitude of the entire American nation. You faced down the evils of communism. You defended our flag and you showed the world the unbreakable resolve of the American Armed Forces. Thank you, we thank you very much.

After serving in Operation Tailwind Mike went on to become an officer in the Army and served for over 20 years. Now Mike and his wife Margaret. Margaret, stand up, Margaret.

[15:40:00] I met Margaret. Margaret's lovely. Reside in a fantastic place where I just left, Huntsville, Alabama, where he lives by a core conviction. You serve your country by fixing your block or fixing your neighborhood. Mike volunteers with the American Legion, the Knights of Columbus and many other organizations. He volunteers at a local soup kitchen. Fixes broken appliances for elderly and disabled neighbors. Donates his hair for those suffering from cancer. Makes lunches for children in need and organizes community gatherings to bring people closer together. Which is something we need all over the world and certainly in our country.

He's a loyal friend to his fellow service members, many of whom are an addition here today. And every Wednesday Caitlin and Christian come over for homework night with grandpa and grandma. I think Caitlin and Christian will agree, and I just met them. You have to stand up. Come on, Christian. Come on. Caitlin. But I think that Caitlin and Christian will agree this field trip is their best homework assignment yet, right? What do you think, Christian? Yes? He said yes.

I am told that recently Christian asked his grandfather what exactly is the Congressional Medal of Honor? That is a wonderful Question, Christian. It's the award given to America's bravest heroes who earn our freedom with their sacrifice. Those who receive the Medal of Honor went above and beyond the call of duty to protect their fellow service members and defend our nation. Caitlin and Christian, you are about to witness your grandpa receive our nation's highest military honor and America's about to witness Captain Gary Michael Rose recognized as the true American hero that he is. A patriot who never gives up, never gives in and always stands strong for God, for family and for country. Mike, we honor you. We thank you. We salute you and with hearts full of admiration and pride, we present you with the Congressional Medal of Honor. And now I would like the military aide to come forward and read the citation. Thank you very much. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The President of the United States of America authorized by Act of Congress March 3, 1863, has awarded in the name of Congress the Medal of Honor to Sergeant Gary M. Rose, of the United States Army. For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty Sergeant Gary M. Rose distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity while serving as a Special Forces medic with a company sized exploitation force special operations augmentation, command and control central, special forces group airborne, first special forces Republic of Vietnam.

Between 11 and 14, September 1970, Sergeant Rose's company was continuously engaged by a well-armed and numerically superior hostile force deep in enemy -controlled territory. Enemy B-40 rockets and mortar rounds rained down while the adversary sprayed the area with small arms and machine-gun fire. Wounding many and forcing everyone to seek cover. Sergeant Rose braving the hail of bullets, sprinted 50 meters to a wounded soldier's side. He then used his own body to protect the casualty from further injury while treating his wounds. After stabilizing the casualty, Sergeant Rose carried him through the bullet ridden combat zone to protective cover.

As the enemy accelerated the attack, Sergeant Rose continuously exposed himself to intense fire as he fearlessly moved from casualty to casualty administering live-saving aid. A B-40 rocket impacted just meters from Sergeant Rose, knocking him from his feet and injuring his head, hand and foot. Ignoring his wounds, Sergeant Rose struggled to his feet and continued to render aid to the other injured soldiers. During the tempted medevac, Sergeant Rose again subjected himself to enemy fire as he attempted to hoist wounded personnel to the hovering helicopter which was unable to land due to unsuitable terrain. The medevac mission was aborted due to intense enemy fire and the helicopter crashed a few miles away due to the enemy fire sustained during the attempted extraction.

[15:45:00] Over the next few days Sergeant Rose continued to expose himself to enemy fire in order to treat the wounded, estimated to be half of the company's personnel. On September 14, during the company's eventually helicopter extraction, the enemy launched a full- scale offensive. Sergeant Rose after loading wounded personnel on the first set of extraction helicopters returned to the outer perimeter, under enemy fire, carrying friendly casualties and moving wounded personnel to more secure positions until they could be evacuated.

He then returned to the perimeter to help propel the enemy under the final extraction helicopter had arrived. After the final helicopter was loaded, the enemy began to overrun the company's position and the helicopter's machine door gunner was shot in the neck. Sergeant Rose instantly administered critical medical treatment on board the helicopter saving the Marine's life. The helicopter carrying Sergeant Rose crashed several hundred meters from the extraction point. Further injuring Sergeant Rose and the personnel on board.

Despite his numerous wounds from the past three days, Sergeant Rose continued to pull and carry unconscious and wounded personnel out of the burning wreckage and continuing to administer aid to the wounded until another extraction helicopter arrived. Sergeant Rose's extraordinary heroism and selflessness above and beyond the call of duty were critical to saving numerous lives over that four-daytime period. His actions are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, the First Special Forces and the United States Army.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Eternal God, we ask for your blessings, the blessings of this day to remain with us as we go forward. May we go forth in peace empowered to serve with greater courage and strengthened to overcome the challenges of our service of our call. Given to serve all in need, and we ask all this in your holy name. Amen.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: All right. And there you have it as we watch this Medal of Honor ceremony there at the White House as Army Captain Gary Michael Rose is awarded with the Medal of Honor for his service as a medic during the Vietnam War. And just listening to that description of everything that he went through really tremendous, tremendous valor that he exhibited during that time and now decades later, he is receiving the honor that he is due.

[15:50:00] And we are going to -- I am joined again by Colonel Steve Warren and Jamie Gangel, as well. I mean, Colonel, I was mesmerized listening to the description that seemingly just went on and on because then you understand why he is receiving this honor for what was just exhaustive, unrelenting, one action after another that he provided during this time, during this battle. It was phenomenal.

COLONEL STEVE WARREN, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: It was tremendous, and it's so good that we put these on television because this is what gives America the opportunity to see what a hero looks like. And we just got to see that right now. A hero looks like a man, but he's got a lot more in his heart. He's got gallantry. He's got intrepidity. He's got selflessness. He's got courage and he never, ever quits. He works for his buddies. He works for his brothers in arms and he never stops until he gets his mission done. We were lucky today because we got to spend a little time watching a real hero.

KEILAR: We sure did. And Jamie, we heard the description from I believe, it was the president who described how it one point when rose had a gaping foot wound that he picked up a branch, used it as a crutch and continued to provide life saving measures to those around him. I mean, this really is a tremendous opportunity after what has been really I think a difficult week.

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. It's been a very rough week. It takes your breath away when you see a man like this, a soldier like this and you hear his story. It's just extraordinary. And it's one of the most special moments, I think, that we get to share in for something like this. The contrast, however, you know, you just have to note is pretty stunning with the back and forth that's been going on with the White House and the Gold-Star widow, including President Trump tweeting again this morning about it. It's really hard to understand because watching President Trump there, it was a beautiful ceremony. He, you know, when he put his hands-on Sergeant Rose's shoulders, the way he reached out to his family, he had the perfect touch. And yet we have this other incident where it was anything but that apparently.

KEILAR: No, and all of these families deserve the utmost respect and dignity, especially our Gold-Star families. Jamie Gangel, Colonel Warren, thank you to both of you.

Any minute now, we are waiting to hear from the chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff. He's expected to brief reporters on the ambush in Niger amid mounting questions over the attack that left four U.S. soldiers dead. He is scheduled to speak at the top of the hour. We're going to bring that to you live when it happens.


KEILAR: Any minute now, we are expecting to hear from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford. That is what you're looking at there on the right side of your screen at the Pentagon. We're going to bring this to you live as soon as it begins.

I want to bring back Colonel Steve Warren though to talk about what we expect to hear. This is going to be about what happened in Niger. We would expect, but it seems line details are few and far between. Are we going to get big picture here or is this going to be perhaps some specifics about what we're missing about what happened in the ambush, colonel?

WARREN: Yes, that's exactly the right question to ask, Brianna. I think we'll get a few tidbits on the tactical situation, what specifically happened, but my sense is the Pentagon is not yet quite ready to release the entire timeline and all of the play-by-play, blow-by-blow what happened. I think what we'll see probably is General Dunford more interested in talking about the mission in Niger and why it's important. And then he'll probably want to talk about the mission in Africa. Why it's important. Maybe a little bit about the spread of ISIS and terrorism in that region. That type of thing. But if we're lucky, we'll get a few tidbits to shed a little bit more light on this tactical operation.

KEILAR: Because you do have even some leading senators, Lindsey Graham among them, Chuck Schumer, who had no idea of the footprint of U.S. soldiers in Niger.

WARREN: That's right. And this will be an opportunity now for General Dunford, for the Pentagon, to start sharing some more of that information publicly. I'm certain there has been plenty of phone calls going on behind the scenes to bring these Senators up to speed on specifically what's happening. But this will be an opportunity now for the Pentagon, for General Dunford to tell America what specifically is happening in Africa. Why it's important that we have forces in Africa, what we're seeing out of ISIS. Remember, this is all related to ISIS or in many ways related to ISIS as we see ISIS begin to get squeezed in the Middle East, actually getting pretty close to wiped out in the Middle East. We see them beginning to migrate and move some of their operations into Africa. These are the things that it will be helpful for all of us to hear from General Dunford and to have him explain to us specifically what the Pentagon's strategy is going forward.

KEILAR: All right, Colonel Warren, thank you so much for that. And then just some of the specifics we're looking for which we may or may not get. Wondering why that intel was so wrong that indicated to those service members who's were killed and the others who were with them that they would not encounter a hostile enemy. We don't know that at this point. That is it for me. I'm Brianna Keilar. Thank you so much for being here with us. "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starts right now.

JACK TAPPER, CNN HOST: Thanks, Brianna. The military just moments away from revealing new information about what happened during that horrific terrorist ambush. "THE LEAD" starts right now.

What happened in Niger when four soldiers were killed, when one of their bodies wasn't recovered for days. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs is about to speak. We'll bring it to you live.

A phone call to a grieving widow gone terribly wrong. Since that moment a profound pain. Have our nation's leaders put the grieving family at the top of their priority list?

Plus, anchor Megyn Kelly unloaded on Bill O'Reilly saying the abuse and shaming of women has to stop after a bombshell report that o 'Reilly paid $32 million to silence one accuser.

Good afternoon, everyone. I'm Jake Tapper. We're going to start with a briefing at the Pentagon where we expect to hear from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff about new details of that horrific Niger raid when four --