Shelton Honors Past, Present Military Heroes
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 29, 2000, Feb. 29, 2000 U.S. Army Gen. Henry Shelton recently honored the nation's military heroes, past and present, during Pentagon Pops 2000, a musical tribute to the American GI.
"We in America are the beneficiaries of great peace and prosperity because America is blessed with a rich history of common patriots willing to defend the uncommon pursuit of liberty," the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said at the two-hour Feb. 21 concert here.
During a brief address, Shelton noted that many of today's men and women in uniform -- active duty, Guard and Reserve -- are deployed "on the ragged edge of freedom, far from home and loved ones, defending America's interests and helping to keep the peace in a very dangerous world."
The concert, he said, paid tribute to "America's sons and daughters who have freely chosen the warrior's way. It is their dedication and courage that have made our armed forces, and continue to make them, the best in the world and America the greatest force for peace and stability on the planet."
While the show's main spotlight was on more than 60 Medal of Honor recipients from World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam, the audience also saluted five modern-day service members recognized for heroism in 1999:
- Army Sgt. Jason C. Moen, A Company, 1st Battalion, 32nd Armor, Fort Lewis, Wash., received the Soldiers Medal for saving the life of a fellow soldier in July 1999 at Yakima Training Center, Yakima, Wash. When an M-1A1 tank began rolling backward down a steep embankment, Moen mounted the moving tank, pulled a soldier from the driver's station and pushed him to safety.
- U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Daniel L. Gray, Helicopter Combat Support Squadron Two, Naval Air Station Norfolk, Va., received the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for rescuing a woman stranded on the roof of a trailer following Hurricane Floyd in North Carolina in September 1999. Gray was a rescue swimmer assigned to Squadron Two during joint search and rescue operations.
Gray told Pentagon officials he and his wife, Tina, plan to give the medal to the widow of the man the Grays credit with saving the life of their son, Daniel. The boy had been diagnosed with chronic renal failure as a baby and received a cadaver kidney in a transplant operation at age 5 in 1996.
"Once I received the medal, our sole intentions were to meet the family of the person who donated the kidney and present them with the medal for saving my son's life," Gray wrote in a letter to the Office of the Secretary of Defense. "I will present the medal to his (the donor's) wife on April 18 at a ceremony in Virginia Beach to honor donor families."
- Air Force Lt. Col. Stephan J. Laushine received the Distinguished Flying Cross for his efforts to rescue the F- 117A stealth fighter pilot shot down in Serbia March 27, 1999. Air mission commander of the helicopter rescue, Laushine was cited for timely and critical decisions leading to the successful recovery of the downed pilot.
He was cited for pressing the rescue mission despite threats from enemy air defenses and ground forces and though knowing his A-10 fighter escort might not be able to support him because of solid overcast and cloud cover over the pickup zone.
- Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Joe Habel from Station Cape Charles, Va., was honored for rescuing four crew members of the Bay King, a tugboat disabled in the Chesapeake Bay during a nor'easter. In 10 to 12 foot seas, Habel and four crew members aboard a 41-foot UTB recovered the tugboat crew from the 38-degree water where survival time is less than two hours. Habel's expert seamanship, boat handling skills and professionalism allowed him to perform this mission safely.
- U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Michael J. Schulte received the Air Medal for meritorious achievement while an AV-8B Harrier fighter pilot assigned to Marine Attack Squadron 211, Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz. Facing impending engine failure, he calmly and quickly evaluated his situation and used prescribed procedures to land safely, averting the loss of his aircraft and possible injury to himself.
Defense Secretary William S. Cohen and his wife, Janet Langhart Cohen, hosted Pentagon Pops 2000 at the Daughters of the American Revolution's Constitution Hall. The show featured military musicians and civilian performers, including rhythm and blues singer Ruth Pointer and country music star Shane Minor. Other speakers included NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw, NBC "Meet the Press" host Tim Russert and author-historian Stephen E. Ambrose.