Medal of Honor presented to family of Pennsylvania man who served during Vietnam War

Medal of Honor recipients were in attendance at the White House Tuesday as three sons of Richard L. "Dick' Etchberger receive the Medal of Honor on their late father's behalf from President Obama.

Susan Walsh/AP Photo
President Barack Obama presents the Medal of Honor posthumously to the sons of Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Richard L. Etchberger Tuesday, Sept. 21, during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington. Etchberger received the honor for his heroic actions in combat in Laos on March 11, 1968, after deliberately exposing himself to enemy fire in order to put his wounded comrades in rescue slings permitting them to be airlifted to safety.

President Barack Obama on Tuesday awarded the Medal of Honor to an Air Force chief master sergeant who died saving three fellow airmen in Laos, his heroism kept under wraps for more than 40 years because the Vietnam-era mission was secret.

"Today your nation finally acknowledges and fully honors your father's bravery," Obama said told the three sons of Richard L. "Dick' Etchberger at an awards ceremony in the East Room of the White House.

"Even though it's been 42 years, it's never too late to do the right thing," Obama said.

One of the sons said afterward that his father would have been humbled to receive the nation's highest military honor.

"He would be here just saying 'I was doing my job up there,'" Richard Etchberger told reporters.

A native of Hamburg, Pa., Etchberger was an electronics expert without formal combat training in March 1968 when he single-handedly kept the North Vietnamese enemy at bay while helping evacuate wounded comrades from their radar station on a remote Laotian mountain after coming under attack.

The next morning, Etchberger managed to get three wounded comrades into rescue slings and on their way to safety. But Etchberger was fatally wounded after enemy ground fire struck the helicopter attempting to lift him to safety.

Etchberger's mission was top secret and for years his children had been in the dark about it. Ritchard Etchberger, the son, said they were told only that he had died in a helicopter crash.

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