Family donates Etchberger Medal of Honor - WSFA.com Montgomery Alabama news.

Family donates Etchberger Medal of Honor

Cory and Rich Etchberger and displaying the Medal of Honor is Senior Master Sgt. Karen Steffers-Graves, with the Air Force Senior Noncommissioned Officer Academy. (Courtesy: Air University) Cory and Rich Etchberger and displaying the Medal of Honor is Senior Master Sgt. Karen Steffers-Graves, with the Air Force Senior Noncommissioned Officer Academy. (Courtesy: Air University)
The bust on display, with the words to the Airmen's Creed on the wall in background. (Courtesy: Air University) The bust on display, with the words to the Airmen's Creed on the wall in background. (Courtesy: Air University)
Rich and Cory Etchberger with the bust of their father. (Courtesy: Air University) Rich and Cory Etchberger with the bust of their father. (Courtesy: Air University)

The family of a Medal of Honor recipient donated the medal to the Air Force Enlisted Heritage Hall Monday. The academy, in response, unveiled a bronze bust of the MoH recipient.

Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Richard Etchberger was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously by President Barack Obama during a ceremony at the White House in September 2010. The president presented the medal to Etchberger's sons during the ceremony.

Present at the ceremony Monday were members of Chief Etchberger's family including his two sons, Richard and Corey, his brother and other extended family members.

Guest speakers at the ceremony included retired Air Force Col. Joe Panza, one of the copilots on the rescue mission and now the executive director of Air University Foundation, which raised money to commission the Etchberger bust. Distinguished guests also included military and River Region civic leaders and the chief master sergeant of the Air Force.

The citation on the Medal of Honor reads:

Chief Master Sergeant Richard L. Etchberger distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism on March 11, 1968, in the country of Laos, while assigned as Ground Radar Superintendent, Detachment 1, 1043d Radar Evaluation Squadron.

On that date, Chief Etchberger and his team of technicians were manning a top secret defensive position at Lima Site 85 when the base was overrun by an enemy ground force. Receiving sustained and withering heavy artillery attacks directly upon his unit's position, Chief Etchberger's entire crew lay dead or severely wounded.

Despite having received little or no combat training, Chief Etchberger single-handedly held off the enemy with an M-16, while simultaneously directing air strikes into the area and calling for air rescue. Because of his fierce defense and heroic and selfless actions, he was able to deny the enemy access to his position and save the lives of his remaining crew.

With the arrival of the rescue aircraft, Chief Etchberger, without hesitation, repeatedly and deliberately risked his own life, exposing himself to heavy enemy fire in order to place three surviving wounded comrades into rescue slings hanging from the hovering helicopter waiting to airlift them to safety.

With his remaining crew safely aboard, Chief Etchberger finally climbed into an evacuation sling himself, only to be fatally wounded by enemy ground fire as he was being raised into the aircraft.

Chief Etchberger's bravery and determination in the face of persistent enemy fire and overwhelming odds are in keeping with the highest standards of performance and traditions of military service. Chief Etchberger's gallantry, self-sacrifice, and profound concern for his fellow men at risk of his life, above and beyond the call of duty, reflect the highest credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.

INFORMATION SOURCE: Air University Public Affairs

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