Family, Heroes, Knights Bid Medal of Honor Recipient Farewell
By Staff Sgt. Marie Schult, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service
ARLINGTON, Va., April 14, 2006 Six Medal of Honor recipients and the Army Parachute Team, the Golden Knights, were among those gathered at Arlington National Cemetery here yesterday to pay their last respects to retired Army Chief Warrant Officer Michael J. "Mike" Novosel, a Medal of Honor recipient and former Golden Knight.
Soldiers from the 3rd U.S. Infantry (The Old Guard) carry Medal of Honor recipient retired Chief Warrant Officer Michael J. Novosel Sr. at Arlington National Cemetery April 13. Novosel, 83, was laid to rest after he succumbed to a long battle with cancer. A former pilot with the Army Golden Knights Parachute Team, Novosel earned the Medal of Honor for actions in Vietnam as a helicopter pilot. Six other Medal of Honor recipients attended the service along with Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Richard Cody, who eulogized Novosel and presented an American flag to his son, Michael J. Novosel Jr. Photo by K. Kassens
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
"It was an honor and a privilege to pay homage to an American hero who served in this unit," said Army Sgt. Maj. Mike Eitniear, Golden Knights sergeant major. Novosel was a pilot for the team following his return from Vietnam in 1970.
He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his bravery and tenacity during the Vietnam War. On Oct. 21, 1969, Novosel received word of wounded South Vietnamese soldiers pinned down by a large enemy force. Flying without air cover, he encountered ground fire so intense it forced him away six times.
Despite the ground fire, he completed 15 hazardous extractions. On the last, just as a wounded soldier was pulled into the aircraft, the enemy unleashed a hail if fire directly at Novosel. Wounded, he momentarily lost control of the aircraft, but recovered and flew to safety. In all, he saved 29 men, according to the Medal of Honor Web site.
He took the pilot position on the Army parachute team at Fort Bragg N.C., in April 1970, according to his book, "Dustoff, the Memoir of an Army Aviator." In June 1971, while he was on the team, he received a call informing him that he and his family were to travel to the White House to meet President Richard M. Nixon for him to receive the Medal of Honor. Novosel served with the Knights until 1972, flying them all over the country to perform parachute demonstrations.
"Thank you so much for coming," his son, Mike Novosel Jr., told members of the Knights in attendance at the funeral. "Dad loved the team and loved his time at Fort Bragg. I'm honored that the team would travel here today to pay their respects to my dad."
Following his retirement from the Army, Novosel spent a lot of time on the lecture circuit, talking about the book and Army aviation. In all that time, he never wavered in his support of the Army or its troops - not even when he became ill with cancer.
"Even when he was in bad health, he would constantly honor those calls for appearances and speaking engagements," said Skippy Cassel, a former Golden Knight skydiver and Army pilot. "You'd never know anything was wrong. He was really an ambassador for Army aviation. He just loved Army aviation."
Throughout his long fight, he continued to be an ambassador for the Army, and in his last days at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, he was an inspiration to the wounded troops recuperating there.
"He took time during his own battle to serve others," Cody noted. "He is the reason we wrote the Warrior Ethos."
The Warrior Ethos is a set of four statements every soldier is expected to live by:
I will always place the mission first.
I will never accept defeat.
I will never quit.
I will never leave a fallen comrade.
(Army Staff Sgt. Marie Schult is assigned to the Army Parachute Team.)