Tag Archive | "Korean War"

Uncommon Valor

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Ed Freeman with George W. Bush

Recently, I had received e-mail about the passing of an American hero.  As I had never heard his name before, and as his story was so remarkable, I decided to conduct a little research as to the story’s veracity.  In so doing, I discovered an unsung hero whose gallant exploits simply must be shared.

 

I’ll begin by relaying the e-mail:

 

Freeman is Coming!

 

You’re a 19-year-old kid, and critically wounded in the jungles of Ia Drang Valley at Landing Zone X-ray on November 14, 1965,Vietnam.

 

Your infantry battalion is outnumbered 8 to 1, and the enemy fire is so intense, your company Commander has ordered the Medi-Vac helicopters to stop coming in.  You’re listening to enemy gunfire and you know you’re not getting out.

 

You’re family is halfway around the world, 12000 miles away and you’ll never see them again.  As you fade in and out, you know this is the day.

 

Then, over the sound of gunfire, you hear the sound of a helicopter. You look up and see approaching an unarmed Huey, with no Medi-Vac markings on it.

 

It’s Ed Freeman and he’s coming to pick you up.  He’s not a Medi-Vac and it’s not his job, but he’s coming anyway.

 

As he lands amidst the murderous gunfire, they load you and 3 other guys [onto the chopper], and then he flies you up and away through enemy fire to the doctors and nurses. He returns 14 more times to evacuate 30 more men who would have never made it out that day.

 

Valor

When I read this story, I could not help but choke up and say a prayer for this man.  Ed Freeman, whose nickname was “Too Tall” served his country in three wars:  World War II, Korea, and Vietnam.

 

Born in Neely, Perry County, Mississippi, Ed was the sixth of nine children, and actually grew up in the nearby town of McLain.  He was a graduate of that burg’s Washington High School.  During World War II, Ed served in the U.S. Army, progressing through the ranks via his courage and leadership.  By the time for him to serve in the Korean War, he had achieved the rank of Master Sergeant.  Although he was assigned to the Army Corp of Engineers, he fought as infantry and received a battlefield commission at the battle of Pork Chop Hill.

 

This commission made him eligible to become a pilot, thereby fulfilling a small part of his childhood dream; Ed had always wanted to fly.  Because he was 6’4″, the military had to disqualify him from flying.  Ed traded a potential pilot’s license for his nickname, which stuck with him throughout the rest of his life.  In 1955, the Army eased the height restrictions for pilots, enabling Ed to attend Flight School.  With the training that he mastered there, he became a top-notch pilot of airplanes and helicopters.

 

In 1965, Ed Freeman, then a Captain, drew an assignment as second-in-command of a sixteen-craft unit: Company A 229th Assault Helicopter Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile).  On November 14th of that same year, Freeman and his unit transported a battalion of American soldiers into the Ia Drang Valley in Vietnam. Arriving back at their base, they learned that the troops they’d transported were under attack and taking heavy casualties. At this point, Ed and his commander, Major Bruce Crandall, volunteered to fly unarmed light helicopters to rescue the wounded and carry water and ammunition to the beleaguered troops.  Those who watched Ed’s chopper brave enemy fire for their benefit, before the copter landed and as it took off, must have thought they were seeing a mirage that day; that is how bleak their situation was. Perhaps when they were aboard, they dreamed that an angel had rescued them.  But it was only Ed, aided by his commander, putting his life on the line for his fellow soldiers.

 

In 1966, Freeman was sent home; a year later, he retired from the military.  With his wife Barbara, he settled in Treasure Valley, Idaho.  Ed continued to fly, as he loved to, and in another capacity, he continued to serve the U.S. government.  He used his skills to track and conduct aerial censuses of wild horses for the U.S. Department of the Interior.  He retired in 1991.

 

Ed Freeman

 

For his actions in Vietnam, Captain Freeman’s commanding officer nominated him for the Medal of Honor.  As a result of a deadline then in place for this particular tribute, he was awarded The Distinguished Flying Cross instead. His nomination for Medal of Honor languished until 1995, when the deadline was eliminated.  Nearly six years later, President George W. Bush presented the Medal of Honor to him on July 16, 2001. After Ed’s death, in March of 2009, the Post Office in his hometown McLain, Mississippi was renamed in his honor, The Major Ed Freeman Post Office.

 

The media is chock-a-block with tales of violence and hatred perpetrated by twisted individuals and so-called religious zealots.  I feel it’s only right to give equal time to “the good ones” among us — the ones who take risks, the ones who demonstrate genuine compassion for others, the ones who put their money where their mouths are.  Ed Freeman surely fits that bill.

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