The nation's highest military award (Medal of Honor) was presented, Oct. 23, 2017 to retired Army Capt. Gary Michael Rose, who goes by Mike, for extraordinary acts of heroism in a secret war. Rose was a Green Beret medic in 1970 when he and 15 other Americans were sent on a top-secret mission inside Laos, which helps explain why it took so long to award him the Medal of Honor.
Sgt. Rose was serving as a Special Forces medic with a company-sized exploitation force consisting of Americans, Vietnamese and indigenous paramilitary Montagnard personnel that was inserted 70 kilometers inside enemy-controlled territory on Sept. 11, 1970.
Once on the ground, they moved deep into enemy territory. The company soon made contact with an enemy squad, wounding two Americans and two Montagnards. One of the wounded was trapped outside the company defensive perimeter. Rose, engaging the enemy, rushed to get the wounded Soldier. Rose rendered expert medical treatment and stabilized the wounded Soldier, and carried the man through the heavy gunfire back to the company defensive area.
When the enemy withdrew, the company continued deeper into enemy territory. The company engaged more enemy forces, and took more casualties. Bravely and courageously, with no regard to his own safety, Rose moved through the enemy fire to render lifesaving medical treatment to the mounting numbers of wounded, personally engaging the enemy in order to get to the wounded men.
The fire becoming so intense, Rose had to crawl from position to position to treat the wounded. As he moved, Rose gave words of encouragement and directed the fires of the inexperienced and terrified Vietnamese and Montagnard troops. Over the next few days, the unit marched west and deeper into the Laos jungle, defending against continuous attacks from squad to company-sized enemy elements. Air Force gunships overhead provided close-air support to keep the enemy at bay.
Rose received the most severe of many wounds on the second day of the mission. Rose’s wounds did not slow his eagerness or determination to save the wounded Soldiers.
During an assault by a company-sized element of North Vietnamese Army, one of the Montagnards was wounded 40 to 50 meters outside the company area. Rose ran, crawled, and maneuvered his way to this wounded man, shielding the Soldier with his own body, as he rendered lifesaving medical treatment. Rose then dragged the wounded Soldier back to the company with one hand while holding back and engaging the enemy with his weapon in the other hand. Rose was returning to the company area with the wounded Soldier when a rocket propelled grenade landed nearby, spraying Rose with shrapnel in his back, leg, and severely crippling his foot. Using a stick as a crutch, as he would for the remainder of the mission, Rose continued professionally treating the wounded while ignoring his own painful wounds.
On the last night of the mission, the company was surrounded in their position. Rose worked tirelessly to dig trenches for the wounded and treat their injuries. The NVA bombarded the company all night with rockets, grenades and mortars. All night, Rose exposed himself to the enemy fire, courageously moving from position to position, encouraging the Soldiers and treating the numerous wounded.
On the last day of the mission, after destroying an enemy base camp, the company was notified by the forward air controller that over 500 NVA were moving on their position. The company was ordered to a helicopter extraction point as Air Force assets cleared their path, guiding the company to the next landing zone. Setting a perimeter around the LZ while each platoon was loaded up, the enemy assaulted them from 360 degrees.
The NVA, close on the heels of the company at the landing zone, caused even more casualties among the allied personnel. Rose moved under intense enemy fire of the assaulting NVA, completely exposing himself, to retrieve the allied dead and wounded and return them to the company defensive perimeter. In great pain, Rose continued to retrieve and medically treat Soldier after Soldier, under the withering enemy fire with no regard to his own safety.
With the arrival of the extraction helicopters, Rose returned to the outer defensive perimeter to engage the enemy and repel the continued and determined enemy assault.
Rose boarded the final extraction helicopter while delivering accurate aimed fire on the enemy as he hobbled up to the loading ramp. Numerous NVA soldiers were now overrunning the vacated landing zone, an estimated 50 meters from the aircraft
Shortly after the helicopter lifted off, it was hit by enemy anti-aircraft rounds. At about 4,500 feet in the air, Rose heard the engine stop. Rose was alerted that a Marine door gunner on the extraction helicopter had been shot with an enemy round through his neck. Rose rushed to his aid, rendering lifesaving medical treatment that saved the Marine’s life before the helicopter crashed, several kilometers away from the initial extraction point.
Rose was thrown from the helicopter before the point of impact. With the Soldiers on board wounded from the crash, the helicopter was smoking and leaking fuel. Still dazed and wounded from the crash, Rose crawled back into the downed helicopter to pull his wounded and unconscious teammates from the wreckage, knowing it could explode at any moment. Rose continued to professionally administer medical treatment to the injured personnel until another helicopter arrived on the scene to extract the men.
On return to base, Rose, covered in blood and wounds, refused all treatment until the other wounded men were attended to first.