Army Inducts Three Heroes of Three Wars into 'Hall of Heroes'
By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, July 20, 2001 The Army inducted three Medal of Honor heroes from three different wars into the Pentagon's "Hall of Heroes" on July 16.
As his family watched, Vietnam veteran retired Army Maj. Ed W. Freeman unveiled a portrait of himself that will hang in the Hall of Heroes. The large alcove honors recipients of the Medal of Honor, America's highest military award for combat gallantry. Freeman received the medal from President Bush in a White House ceremony earlier in the day
The other two inductees were former President and Army Lt. Col. Theodore Roosevelt and Civil War Cpl. Andrew Jackson Smith. President Clinton presented posthumous medals to descendants of Smith and Roosevelt in late 2000. Roosevelt was cited for heroism on July 1, 1898, while leading the charge of the "Rough Riders" up San Juan Hill in Cuba during the Spanish American War. Smith was recognized for bravery during the Battle of Honey Hill, S.C., on Nov. 30, 1864.
Freeman's White House ceremony was attended by his family, more than 50 Medal of Honor recipients, the chairman and members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and members of his unit in Vietnam. Also in attendance were Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of Veterans Affairs Anthony J. Principi.
"To be in the presence of one who has won the Medal of Honor is a privilege," Bush said. "To be in a room with a group of over 50 is a moment none of us will ever forget. We're in the presence of more than 50 of the bravest men who have ever worn the uniform."
At the Pentagon ceremony, the Freemans joined Roosevelt and Smith family members, who included Smith's 93-year-old daughter, Caruth Smith Washington and Roosevelt's great-great-grandson, Winthrop Roosevelt.
"No one is ever expected to make the kind of sacrifices required in order to receive the Medal of Honor," Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric K. Shinseki said in his keynote speech. "The feats of bravery associated with the Medal of Honor are so far beyond any of our expectations that, had any recipient failed to act, no one could possibly have criticized him."
Shinseki said Smith risked his life on Nov. 30, 1864, to save the colors of the 55th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment. During the war, color bearers were prime targets for enemy sharpshooters because the flag marked the commander's location and direction of attack. Units advanced behind their flag, and losing it to the enemy was a blot on their honor and morale.
When an exploding enemy shell killed the 55th color sergeant, Smith took up the regimental flag and advanced through heavy grape and canister fire, according to Medal of Honor citation. Grapeshot turned cannons in large-caliber shotguns; explosive artillery canisters had the effect of modern grenades and claymore mines. Used at short range, a single volley of either could mow down rows of men.
"He kept faith with fellow soldiers by preserving their symbol of shared trust, their symbol of strength and unity, and for these men in particular, their symbol of hope," Shinseki said. An African American, "Cpl. Smith was a man who fought for freedoms he did not fully enjoy himself," the general said. "He was a man who fought for a concept of democracy that had not yet fully recognized his own inalienable rights. And he was a man who fought both an enemy on the battlefield and a prejudice within his own Army."
Roosevelt was cited for leading his volunteer cavalry regiment, the "Rough Riders," on a daring charge up San Juan Hill. On foot.
"Nothing instills greater confidence in soldiers than leaders who take charge at crucial moments in battle and, at their own peril, lead them over the top," Shinseki said. Roosevelt's leadership didn't end there, the general noted.
"After the battle, Col. Roosevelt continued to put the welfare of his men ahead of his other duties, fighting to have them returned home quickly in light of the diseases they were being exposed to while in Cuba," he said. "And so in leading his men from the front and in caring for their welfare after the battle, Theodore Roosevelt honored his soldiers' trust."
Freeman distinguished himself by numerous acts of conspicuous gallantry and extraordinary intrepidity on Nov. 14, 1965, during the Battle of Ia Drang Valley in Vietnam, Shinseki said. His baptism of fire had been during the Korean War at a place called Pork Chop Hill. Freeman became a helicopter pilot in Vietnam.
During the battle, Freeman flew his Huey on at least 14 supply and medical evacuation missions under heavy enemy fire to aid the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, which had been surrounded by a regiment of North Vietnamese regulars.
"Knowing that someone would risk his life to fly time and again into that battleground gave the men of the 7th Cav. the will to carry on. Not many pilots would fly into what's known as a 'hot LZ,' but Ed Freeman did," the general said. "He became the infantryman's only connection to the world outside the bloody ground they found themselves in. In the most harrowing of battlefield conditions, Ed Freeman honored the soldier's trust."
Shinseki said, "Those of you in the Freeman family see with you today a husband, a father, a grandfather -- an unassuming, plainspoken family man. But to those of us who fought there, he represents so much more.
It wasn't the helicopter that made the difference at Ia Drang, he said, "It was the intrepid pilot, Capt. Ed Freeman, who refused to think of himself, who would not let his fellow soldiers down, and who repeatedly risked his life to save theirs."