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A True American Hero

The Way I See It

May 26, 2013
By John Sheda , Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

This coming Monday, we celebrate Memorial Day-a day to simply remember. We visit the graves of loved ones and also attend various Memorial Day services. It's a day of reflection, a day of bittersweet memories and also a day to kick off the beginning of summer. But it's also a day to remember our fallen heroes. Here is the story of Captain Ed Freeman.

Close your eyes and imagine being 19 years old, critically wounded and dying in the deep jungle of Vietnam. The date is November 14, 1965. Your infantry is outnumbered 8-1 and the enemy fire is so intense from just about 100 yards away, that your very own Infantry Commander has ordered the MediVac helicopters to stop flying in. So there you are, lying in severe pain and bleeding, listening to the enemy machine guns and NOW you realize you're not getting out. Your family is a world away and you'll never see them again. Due to the severity of your wounds, the world around you begins to fade in and out and in your mind-this is it!

Then over the machine gun noise, you think you hear the faint whirr of a helicopter, but it can't be. You're becoming delusional with pain. But you look up and see an un-armed Huey, but it can't be real because there's no MediVac markings on it. Captain Ed Freeman is coming for you. He's not MediVac, so it's not his job, but here he is, flying his helicopter down right into machine gun fire, even after all the MediVacs have been ordered not to come.

Article Photos

Captain Freeman's coming anyway.

He lands his unarmed helicopter amid enemy fire and waits until 2 or 3 of you are on board. Then he takes off and flies away, out of gunfire range to Doctors and Nurses. And then he comes back again and again and again. Each time amid heavy enemy gunfire and each time removing a couple of wounded men from certain death. Of his heroics this day, not much, if any media attention was given. You see, the Vietnam War was not well liked by the national news media. Captain Freeman just simply did his job!

On August 20, 2008, Major Edward W. Freeman, (U.S. Army Retired) passed away. Ed's passing did not garnish much media attention either. Probably more important to report some movie or rock star's rehabilitation stint, or which professional ball player was using steroids. However, his valor was recognized when he was awarded the United States Medal of Honor at a special White House ceremony in July, 2001 by President George W. Bush. The President said of Freeman on that occasion:

"By all rights, another president from Texas should have had the honor of conferring this medal. It was in the second year of Lyndon Johnson's presidency that Army Captain Ed Freeman did something that the men of the 7th Calvary have never forgotten. Years passed, even decades, but the memory of what happened on November 14, 1965 has always stayed with them. For his actions that day, Captain Freeman was awarded the distinguished Flying Cross, but the men who were there, including the commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Bruce Crandall, felt a still higher honor was called for. Through Lieutenant Colonel Crandall's unremitting efforts, as well as others and the persuasive weight from Senator John McCain, the story now comes to its rightful conclusion.

That story began that morning in November, with one of the a battalion surrounded by the enemy in one of Vietnam's fiercest battles. Survivors that day remember their desperate fear of certain death. They also remember the sound of one lone unarmed helicopter coming to their aid. The man at the controls of that helicopter flew through the gunfire, not a few times but at least 21 times, bringing water, ammunition and supplies to the men and bringing out more than 70 wounded soldiers to safety. Citations like this one here being awarded today to Ed Freeman, are written in the simplest of language, needing no embellishment or techniques of rhetoric. They simply record places, names and events that describe themselves. The medal itself bears only one word--VALOR."

This Memorial Day, let us never forget those who paid a tremendous price for our freedoms today. It cost so many their very lives. And if you think about it, please say a prayer or two for the many who right this very moment are in harm's way. May God bless America.

That's The Way I See it. Let me know how you see it at jsheda@indytel.com or call me at 319-327-4640. Drive carefully!

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