“When duty called, Larry did everything," Joe Biden said of Larry Taylor during Tuesday's Medal of Honor ceremony
President Joe Biden honored a Vietnam Army Captain with the U.S. military’s highest award for valor on Tuesday.
Capt. Larry Taylor received the Medal of Honor in recognition of his “conspicuous gallantry, his profound concern for his fellow soldiers, and his intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty,” Lieutenant Colonel Ann Hughes said at the White House ceremony.
Taylor, 81, was a 1st Lieutenant during the Vietnam War and was honored for completing a daring rescue mission in the dead of night in 1968.
He and another pilot — flying in a Cobra helicopter, which Biden, 80, described as the “newest, fastest, deadliest Army helicopter at the time” during the ceremony — responded to a call from four soldiers who were surrounded by enemy forces after an earlier recon mission.
The plan was to provide cover for the soldiers while a rescue helicopter made its way there, Biden said, but once Taylor and his co-pilot arrived at the pitch-black scene, they learned that no rescue unit was coming.
After taking several hits to his helicopter while attempting to help cover the four soldiers on the ground, Taylor found himself low on ammunition — and time.
“Lieutenant Taylor received a direct order: ‘Return to base.’ His response was just as direct: ‘I’m getting my men out,’” Biden said. “Lieutenant Taylor would perform the extraction himself, a maneuver never before accomplished in a Cobra.”
Taylor landed the helicopter while still facing enemy fire and instructed the patrol team to grab a hold of the aircraft however they could.
“They turned around and jumped on the aircraft — a couple were sitting on the skids, one was sitting on the rocket pods, and I don’t know where the other one was but they beat on the side of the ship twice, which meant, ‘Haul ass,’ ” Taylor said, reported CNN. “And we did.”
The pilot then found a safe, friendly area to land the Cobra and the four soldiers disembarked, their lives “undoubtedly” saved, Hughes said at the White House ceremony.
“We took them down there and I landed, and I left my wide landing lights on and so the four of them ran out in front of the helicopter and then they turned around and lined up, all four of them, saluted, and then ran for the lights,” Taylor said to reporters last week, per CNN.
“When duty called, Larry did everything — did everything to answer," Biden said at the ceremony. "And because of that, he rewrote the fate of four families for generations to come.”
“That’s valor,” he continued. “That’s our nation at its very best.”
During his time in the military, Taylor flew more than 2,000 missions and received more than 50 combat decorations, including the Silver Star, 43 Air Medals, a Bronze Star and two Distinguished Flying Crosses, according to an Army report.
On receiving the Medal of Honor, he said: “That’s the ultimate. You can’t get any better than that. I’m thankful that we were able to get the [Soldiers] out that night, and all four of them became lifelong friends.”
Today, President Biden awarded the Medal of Honor to Captain Larry L. Taylor for his incredible heroism during the Vietnam War, where he led a rescue mission to save four fellow soldiers. pic.twitter.com/xzS9nP9HBu
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) September 6, 2023
Taylor didn't seen any of the four men he’d rescued that night for more than 30 years afterward.
That changed in 1999, when he met Dave Hill, who was a rear gunner on the patrol team, at a reunion, according to the Army report. The two became friends, and over time, Hill and several other veterans rallied together to campaign for Taylor to receive a Medal of Honor.
“Larry not only did his job, he went way above and beyond his duty at great risk of life,” Hill said, per the Army report. "It was a failure at the time to adequately recognize his valor, his courage, his dedication, and we were determined to turn that around."
A group of veterans contacted a congressman in Tennessee, where Taylor lives, and began the process of nomination for the Medal of Honor. It took over seven years for their efforts to pay off.
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At the Medal of Honor ceremony on Tuesday, Biden shared Taylor’s humble response to the award.
“Now, when I called Larry to let him know he finally was receiving this recognition, his response was, ‘I thought you had to do something to receive the Medal of Honor.’ ”
He continued, “Well, Larry, you sure in hell did something, man. If you ask anyone here, I’m pretty sure they’d say… you did something extraordinary.”
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