Column: A Medal of Honor recipient’s request

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 Command Sgt. Maj. Gary Littrell is a recipient of the Medal of Honor. Littrell was a special guest at the Third Annual Florida Fun Shoot at Ancient Oak Gun Club on Saturday, Feb. 20th. Herald-Tribune staff photo by Mike Lang


Command Sgt. Maj. Gary Littrell is a recipient of the Medal of Honor. Littrell was a special guest at the Third Annual Florida Fun Shoot at Ancient Oak Gun Club on Saturday, Feb. 20th. Herald-Tribune staff photo by Mike Lang

Sergeant First Class Gary Littrell walked up a hill in Vietnam’s Kontum Province on April 8, 1970 with 473 South Vietnamese Rangers and four American advisers.

The South Vietnamese Ranger battalion he was advising had been tasked to interdict North Vietnamese Army units that were harassing Special Forces camps in the area, which is near the Laotian border.

Littrell’s ARVN Ranger battalion was quickly surrounded by two NVA regiments and a battalion of sappers — a total of about 5,000 combat-hardened enemy personnel.

A horrific firefight ensued, which lasted four days.

At the end, Littress emerged with just 41 walking-wounded.

During the firefight, he called in fire missions as close as 50 meters from his own position.

He cared for the wounded, redistributed ammunition, shored-up defenses and shouted encouragement to his troops in Vietnamese, while constantly exposing himself to enemy fire.

Littrell and his ARVN Rangers decimated the NVA, leaving all three units combat ineffective.

For his gallantry, Littrell received the Medal of Honor from President Richard Nixon.

“SFC. Littrell exhibited near superhuman endurance as he singlehandedly bolstered the besieged battalion. Repeatedly abandoning positions of relative safety, he directed artillery and air support by day and marked the unit’s location by night, despite the heavy, concentrated enemy fire,” his Medal of Honor citation reads. “His dauntless will instilled in the men of the 23d Battalion a deep desire to resist.”

Littrell, who retired as a Command Sergeant Major, was the guest of honor Friday at the Third Annual Florida Fun Shoot, which was held at the Ancient Oak Gun Club. The sporting clay charity shoot benefits several local veterans groups.

SGM Littrell was assigned to my shooting team, along with Herald-Tribune photo editor Mike Lang and Mike Young, owner of Sarasota’s Young Guns and Safety gun shop.

Needless to say, the three of us were extremely humbled and very grateful to have him as a teammate. It’s an honor just to meet the man, much less shoot a round of clays with him.

He now spends more than 270 days a year traveling the globe, talking with active duty troops, boosting morale and advocating for wounded veterans and improved veterans’ care — especially guide dogs, which are his highest priority.

“We can send a young man or woman into combat and blind them, but the Department of Defense or the VA doesn’t have the ability to give them a seeing-eye dog,” he said. “You should tell your Congressman they should be ashamed. It’s shameful. Let them know.”

As a Medal of Honor recipient, his is a voice politicians can’t ignore, especially if it’s supported by a chorus of other voices, all advocating for improved care.

— If we don’t run into each other at the range, you can reach me at (941) 284-8553, by email at lee.williams@heraldtribune.com or by regular mail, 1741 Main St., Sarasota, FL 34236. You also can follow me on social media at facebook.com/TheGunWriter or Twitter.com/ht_gunwriter or watch us on our new YouTube Channel.

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About Author

Lee Williams can’t remember a time in his life when he wasn’t shooting. Before becoming a journalist, Lee served in the Army and worked as a police officer. He’s earned more than a dozen journalism awards as a reporter, and three medals of valor as a cop. He is an NRA-certified law enforcement firearms instructor, an avid tactical shooter and a training junkie. When he’s not busy as a senior investigative reporter, he is usually shooting his AKs, XDs and CZs. If you don’t run into him at a local gun range, you can reach him at 941.284.8553, by email, or by regular mail to 1777 Main St., Sarasota, FL 34236. You can follow him on Twitter: @HT_GunWriter and on Facebook @The Gun Writer.

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