President Biden presented the nation’s highest military honor today to Staff Sergeant Edward N. Kaneshiro and Specialist 5 Dennis M. Fujii for their “acts of gallantry and intrepidity” during the Vietnam War.
ABC News reports they were among four Vietnam War veterans who received the award at the White House honoring their bravery and heroism.
The others are Specialist 5 Dwight W. Birdwell and Major John J. Duffy. Kaneshiro will receive the recognition posthumously.
“They went far above and beyond the call of duty,” Biden said of the honorees at the ceremony, The Daily Mail reports.
Dennis Fujii’s act of bravery
According to Stars & Stripes, Fujii served as chief of a medevac helicopter called to rescue severely wounded Vietnamese troops under heavy fire in Laos in 1971.
“We started taking so much ground fire, I had never seen it in Vietnam. All the years I was there I had never, never seen anything like that,” Fujii said during an interview with the army.
Fujii and the others attempted to airlift the men to safety, but heavy fire sent the chopper crashing to the ground.
Fujii and two others ran for cover in a bunker. An exploding mortar injured Fujii’s shoulder and flying shrapnel temporarily blinded and dazed him.
His crew brought two injured soldiers back to the chopper. Unable to return to the helicopter himself, he waved the chopper off and watched as his crew flew away.
Fujii spent the next two nights as the only American tending to injured soldiers.
Fujii “repeatedly exposed himself to hostile fire as he left the security of his entrenchment to better observe enemy troop positions and to direct airstrikes against them,” a Distinguished Service Cross citation stated.
An American helicopter the next day returned to rescue Fujii and the others.
Edward N. Kaneshiro’s Heroism
In 1966, Kaneshiro used six grenades and a rifle to provide cover for his squad to run for safety, ABC reports. He was killed in action the following year leaving his children, Naomi Viloria and John Kaneshiro, fatherless. Viloria was just 8 and her brother 4 months old.
“I didn’t know him. So you know, I didn’t have that father figure, but just reading the actions that he did in newspaper articles of the period, that told me he was a man of character,” he said. “So, you know, you put that together and say, ‘Wow, you know, I hope I can be like him.'”
He would go on to enlist in the army after high school.
Viloria says her family has pushed for years for her father to receive this recognition.
“Finally, this year, right after my mother passed away, we were notified that his combat record was being under review and he could possibly be awarded the Medal of Honor, and I finally got the call from President Biden,” she said.
Biden described Kaneshiro as “fearless.”
“His memory lives on in the lives he saved, in the legend of his fearlessness,” the president said at the ceremony.
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