Retired Capt. Gary Michael Rose has been awarded the Medal of Honor for his gallantry during the Vietnam War.
In a ceremony at the White House, President Donald Trump presented the award to Rose, who is credited with saving at least 60 soldiers during a secret mission nearly 50 years ago. Rose, who enlisted in the Army after his first year of college, was a combat medic for the U.S. Army's 5th Special Forces Group during the war. He was 22 when he was called on his second combat mission.
Rose was the only medic among 16 Green Berets and 120 Vietnamese tribal fighters known as Montagnards traveling in the covert unit in September 1970, according to a news release from the White House.
"This [award] will enshrine him to the history of our nation," Trump said during the ceremony.
The covert mission known as Operation Tailwind was classified for decades, ABC News reported.
By the time the Green Berets were evacuated, every one of the Americans had been wounded, along with dozens of the Montagnard fighters.
The unit's mission was to prevent the North Vietnamese from funneling weapons along the Ho Chi Minh Trail for use against American troops, Trump told those in attendance.
Helicopters dropped Rose's unit into Laos, where they were met with enemy fire. Three men were struck before they even touched the ground.
Once on the ground, the unit ran for cover in the jungle, but soon another soldier was hit outside their defensive perimeter, Trump said.
Then-Sgt. Rose rushed to the man's side, shielded him with his own body and carried the soldier back to safety.
"Your job as a medic is to go where the wounded are," Rose told NPR's Tom Bowman.
Even after Rose was injured, he continued tending to the other soldiers, offering words of encouragement as he cared for them.
" ... a rocket-propelled grenade exploded nearby and shot smoldering metal into Mike’s back and into his leg. He was seriously, seriously wounded. The shrapnel left a gaping hole in Mike’s foot," Trump said. "For the next 48 excruciating hours, he used a branch as a crutch and went on rescuing the wounded. Mike did not stop to eat, to sleep, or even to care for his own serious injury as he saved the lives of his fellow soldiers."
By the end of the intense four-day battle, Rose was using "bandanas and shirtsleeves" for bandages, Here & Now reported.
Once the evacuation helicopters arrived, Rose fought back the enemy while his fellow soldiers boarded the aircraft. Limping from his own injuries, he boarded the last chopper.
He was joined at the ceremony by 25 people who were involved in Operation Tailwind, including 10 of his fellow Green Berets, according to ABC News.
Rose's wife Margaret, their three children and two grandchildren also attended the ceremony.
• Born Oct. 17, 1947
• Enlisted April 4, 1967
• 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne)
• Three tours of duty: Thailand, 1969; Republic of Vietnam, 1970; Panama, 1971-73
• Numerous other awards including the Distinguished Service Cross, Bronze Star Medal and Purple Heart
• Retired in May 1987
Facts about the Medal of Honor:
• It is the highest award for valor in action against an enemy force which can be bestowed upon an individual serving in the armed services of the United States.
• It is generally presented to its recipient by the president of the United States of America in the name of Congress.
• 3,500 people have received the award
• 73 are still living
• 19 are double recipients