Sunday, September 21, 2008

Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient Visits Eaglecrest High School

On Thursday, our school was blessed with the visit of a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient! It was quite the occasion. Our driveway into the school parking lot was lined with probably fifty American flags, a red carpet was put down, art students created beautiful works depicting the experience of the soldier's crowning moment, and even our live mascot, Free Spirit (an eagle) was on stage during the National Anthem. It was an incredible occasion. I was so impressed by this man's bravery and unassuming nature. We were all dressed in suits and dresses for the occasion, and he had on jeans, tennis shoes and a sport coat! He truly didn't believe that he was necessarily worthy of the grand honor. He spoke about the need to serve either our church, community, or country. An official flag folding ceremony was held---something I had never seen before. What a beautiful experience! I was surprised at all the deeply religious symbolism. I'm in a district now where it's tough to mention Christianity or anything to do with it, so if any of you know what is said in the flag ceremony, you can imagine how surprised I was! What shocked me when I started to read his story was that he had so much in common with my own father. He was a Marine in Vietnam who left from California. Who knows, maybe they crossed paths! Here's a little blurb on Richard Pittman:


Rank and organization: Sergeant (then L/Cpl.), U.S. Marine Corps, Company 1, 3d Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division (Rein) FMF. Place and date: near the Demilitarized Zone, Republic of Vietnam, 24 July 1966. Entered service at: Stockton, Calif. Born: 26 May 1945, French Camp, San Joaquin, Calif. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. While Company 1 was conducting an operation along the axis of a narrow jungle trail, the leading company elements suffered numerous casualties when they suddenly came under heavy fire from a well concealed and numerically superior enemy force. Hearing the engaged marines' calls for more firepower, Sgt. Pittman quickly exchanged his rifle for a machinegun and several belts of ammunition, left the relative safety of his platoon, and unhesitatingly rushed forward to aid his comrades. Taken under intense enemy small-arms fire at point blank range during his advance, he returned the fire, silencing the enemy position. As Sgt. Pittman continued to forge forward to aid members of the leading platoon, he again came under heavy fire from 2 automatic weapons which he promptly destroyed. Learning that there were additional wounded marines 50 yards further along the trail, he braved a withering hail of enemy mortar and small-arms fire to continue onward. As he reached the position where the leading marines had fallen, he was suddenly confronted with a bold frontal attack by 30 to 40 enemy. Totally disregarding his safety, he calmly established a position in the middle of the trail and raked the advancing enemy with devastating machinegun fire. His weapon rendered ineffective, he picked up an enemy submachinegun and, together with a pistol seized from a fallen comrade, continued his lethal fire until the enemy force had withdrawn. Having exhausted his ammunition except for a grenade which he hurled at the enemy, he then rejoined his platoon. Sgt. Pittman's daring initiative, bold fighting spirit and selfless devotion to duty inflicted many enemy casualties, disrupted the enemy attack and saved the lives of many of his wounded comrades. His personal valor at grave risk to himself reflects the highest credit upon himself, the Marine Corps, and the U.S. Naval Service.

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