Medal of Honor media roundtable: Capt. Gary Rose

– Today, we are honored by the presence of retired US Army captain Garry Michael Mike Rose who is joined by retired US Army lieutenant colonel Eugene McArly. They will discuss the event surrounded Captain Rose’s military acts of heroism while serving as a combat medic with the 5th Special Forces Group Airborne from September 11 through the 14th in 1970. While his unit was engaging a numerically superior force deep in enemy controlled territory, Captain Rose exposed himself to enemy fire numerous times to provide medical aid for his comrades, using his own body to shield a wounded American from harm. On the final day of the mission, although severely wounded himself, Captain Rose volunteered to board the last extraction helicopter. Shortly after liftoff, the helicopter was hit by enemy antiaircraft. Captain Rose rendered life saving medical treatment to save a wounded Marine before the helicopter crashed. Ignoring his own injuries, Captain Rose pulled the people from the burning helicopter and provided medical aid until help arrived. Captain Rose is credited with treating more than 60 wounded personnel and saving many lives. For his conspicuous gallantry, the president will present the Medal of Honor to Captain Rows in a White House ceremony on Monday, October 23, and then he will be inducted into the Pentagon Hall of Heroes on October 24. Captain Rose’s name will be added to the distinguished roster in defense department’s Hall of Heroes, the permanent display of record for all recipients of the Medal of Honor. Now, Captain Rose will provide an opening statement provided by brief interjections and statements from Lt. Col. McArly. – Well, thank you all for coming this morning. I’d like to start off by saying that coupled with the Presidential Unit Citation that Maxod received about 15 years ago and this medal which I consider a collective medal for all of us that fought both on the ground and the Air Force and the Marines on Operation Tailwind. In a greater sense it also honors the men of 5th Special Forces that fought during that timeframe and Maxod as a whole that that unit was in active duty. And in a greater sense, I think it points to the valor and the courage of the men and women who served during Vietnam and they served with honor and pride. And they also, the ones that I know personally, all returned home and continued on to serve this country in various capacities such as the ministry, religious ministries, police officers, nurses, doctors, so on. And I consider it a privilege to be counted amongst them. Thank you. Colonel? – Thank you for coming this morning. It’s indeed a great pleasure to sit here next to Mike. I can’t think of an individual more deserving of this award, but it’s also a pleasure for me to have served with Mike and the other 15 guys from Operation Tailwind. I’m proud of him, and because of my association with him, I feel like I’m a much better man and a citizen today. I’m proud of our service, I’m proud of what we did. We did it for the love of our country and patriotism. And again, thank you for being here and I’ll try to answer your questions to the best of my ability, thank you. – Thank you, colonel. With that, opening up for questions. Megan? – Hi, Mike, I’m Megan Myers from Army Times, nice to talk to you again. Since, between the time that this story went public over a decade ago and the time it happened, how many times would you say that you had told that story to anybody, was that something you ever talked about? – [Mike] Zero. – Never with anybody that you kept up with in those years? – Ma’am, when we left Maxod, which was a top secret organization, basically, the unit did not exist. And it was not acknowledged for almost 30 years. So when you left Maxod, you signed all these paperwork that you read this thing, they put it in front of you, some intel officer, and it says that under penalty of 500 years in prison and $40 million fine and so on, but they kind of bury you under 40 feet of concrete if you even divulge anything. So I just determined if anybody asked me, I was gonna be a mail clerk during the Vietnam war. Keep myself out of trouble. But the other thing is the mentality of the way people in the 5th or Special Forces are, you do a mission like that, the next day you get debriefed, you have the afternoon off, you get up the next morning, and I went back to working in the dispensary, business as usual. Anything to add to that, colonel? – I think Mike pretty well summed it up. At the operation and I came in, I forgot about it. Nothing really surfaced until about 1998. It became more and more in the news and popular, but as far as discussing it, even among the individuals, and I’ve remained real close with the guys that served with me in Tailwind. We never really discussed it, just laughed about some of the things that happened. – My follow up is for you, what made you want to get involved and take on this upgrade for him, this medal upgrade? – I had the honor to serve with about five or six of the other Medal of Honor recipients in Special Forces. Mike is gonna be the 19th. I’ve been fortunate enough to know and be friends with about 10 of them, and like I say, I actually served with five or six of them. They even went on operations with me. The actions that Mike performed on Operation Tailwind, you just can’t imagine it, you can’t put it into words, you can’t describe it, but I can’t think of anyone more deserving than Mike to receive this award. It’s an effort that pushed and we fought for for many, many years, and finally, it looks like it’s coming to pass. – Yes, ma’am? – (muffled speaking) After living in such secrecy for so long, how does it feel to have it be so public? – I’ll be honest with you, (chuckling) I think the colonel will agree, in some respects I wish it was still secret. I’m not used to notoriety. My thing is after I retired from working and stuff, I’m involved with a lot of great people. And most of them, I might say, are veterans. Both men and women. And I’m involved with the St Vincent de Paul society, Purple Heart, Knights of Columbus. We try to, we have an attitude that we can’t fix the nation, can’t fix the state, we can’t even fix our city. But we can fix our neighbor who entered our community. So we can actually go out and do something that day and at the end of that day, we can actually see something physically that we’ve accomplished that, just a little bit, made that portion of our city a little better. – So you’re used to being that quiet warrior who works in the background, and that’s sort of how it was in 1970 when this happened. You married your wife the next year, was she someone you knew when this happened? Tell us about your life at that juncture. – I can tell you how I met my wife, if you’re that interested. I got back on a Saturday and about Sunday, my mother started on my case about calling this young lady, a friend of hers. It was a friend of my mother’s who lived upstairs from us and her best friend had a sister. So about Wednesday, just to get my mother off my back, if you would, and I don’t know if you’re mothers, and have an adult child, mothers never seem to think of you in terms of not being your mother. So they know best, I guess, mother knows best. So I called her and I talked to her, I thought 10 minutes, I’m out of here. Well, the conversation lasted about an hour, asked her on a date, and 89 days later we were married and we’ve been married for going on 47 years. And I might add that Margaret Mary Cotsman-Rose is probably the best thing that ever happened to me. Yes, ma’am? – Can you take about, Claudia, Stars and Stripes, can you talk about the emotions that you’re feeling ahead of the ceremony on Monday, what’s going through your mind? – Actually, what I’m kind of, there are two things, I guess. It’s not every day a person gets to meet the President of the United States. That, in itself, to be in the same room as that person, is just an incredible honor and privilege. But the other thing too is I get to see people that I don’t get to see very often and in some cases I haven’t seen in decades. I’ve stayed in communication with them, but because of the distances between where we live and the country, it’s very difficult. And they’re all coming here by Sunday and my wife and I are going to have the privilege of seeing these friends that date back some 40, 50 years. So that’s the great, the two great things about it. – A follow up, what’s been the reaction among your family and your friends as you’re getting reunited with these folks? – My wife’s excited about, Margaret is very excited about seeing some of the friends we haven’t seen in a while. For my children, I get the idea that they’re kind of pretty proud of their dad. My grandson, he’s just so excited about being able to meet Mr. Trump. – Can you describe in your recount of what happened, the gunner who had the injury that should have been mortal to his throat, is he someone who you’ll be reconnecting with this week? – The Army traced him down. Unfortunately, the gentleman passed away in 2012. But the thing I take great pride in is if you had seen him on that day, you would have not thought that he would have made it. The whole front of his neck was, he was a bloody mess. He was in bad shape, really bad shape. The fact that he lived all the way to 2012, that just gives me a great sense of accomplishment. I give credit to the people that trained me that I did something to, in spite of his injuries, to keep him so he could go home. – I’d like to add something to that. Mike saved this guy’s life. The man should have died in that helicopter. But I had the opportunity, and I think it was in 1973 or 1974, a few years after Mike worked on him, and I had the opportunity to meet him at a Marine base with some of his other friends who participated in the operation with us. Had a couple of drinks with him, and the only visible signs or the only signs you could tell he had ever been shot, he had two scars under each ear lobe about the size of half a dollar. It had not affected any movement or anything in his neck, any speech, anything. It was as if it had never happened. It was more like a tattoo than a scar, but he had very distinctive scars. Like I say, about half a dollar. Mike did a miraculous job. I don’t know any licensed doctor could have done any more or done a better job than Mike did. – Hi, Louis Martinez with ABC news. You spoke about your training as a medic, can you describe how it was that you choose that career path or was it chosen for you, and knowing that this was a major conflict area, did you have any concerns when you went in this field, knowing that because you’re gonna be treating a lot of wounded that you might be exposing yourself to a lot of fire in some cases? – What happens is that, during that time period, they had special forces recruiters in most training bases. I don’t know if, you take these tests at the beginning. These recruiters would get ahold of your scores and they go through them. And you get called out of a formation and you get talked to about this or that or whatever. I got sent down with about three other guys from my AIT infantry at Fort Gordon. Talked to this guy, somebody, I don’t know, he walks in with a green beret. I didn’t know nothing about green berets or special forces. He talked to us and he says we’re gonna have you guys take a test to see if you’re qualified to go on to further training. You have to understand, back in those days, when you are a private in the Army, you never saw NCOs or officers unless something really bad or really good happened. A specfor was god. If he told you to jump, on the way up, you ask how high. So I believe he was a master sergeant, so if a master sergeant says you’re going to take a test, you’re going to take a test and you better do the best tout you can. So I took the test and when I got toward the end of AIT infantry, I had orders for jump school in Fort Bragg to go to special forces training. I get to Fort Bragg, you take another battery test, they say you’d best be suited to be a medic. You say okay, so you do it. This is the 60s. As far as the trepidation about going into combat or that which I guess you alluded to, that probably never entered my head. I suspect that for most of us, even if you were trained for infantry or whatever, it probably doesn’t enter your head until that point and time frame when you actually have to step up into a helicopter and you’re going into a hot landing zone. That’s probably the first time in your life that you’re, oh, this might be serious. Or there could be some catastrophic consequences. Any other feelings on that? – Pretty well covered. – Given that you had such a long experience there, how would you rate this incident with others that you had? Were there others of similar intensity that were not being recognized, are there other situations that… – I had been on other operations before and after, but that one I knew something was up, because the first sergeant Adair came by and said make sure you pack extra this and that and you watch the guys with you. Even though you don’t know what’s really going on, because you’re only told what you need to know to do your job. So when you see guys doubling up on their ammunition, you know something is up. We never carried that much ammunition before or afterwards, but boy, we were we were carrying heavy loads of ammunition. Extra machine gun, extra grenades, god, everything else. I knew something was going up. Doesn’t take a genius to figure that out. – To add to that, we were going into an area that the American troops has never been in before, there was absolutely no intelligence. We didn’t know what we were gonna encounter. Like Mike said, we went extra heavy. We carried a lot of extra ammunition, a lot of extra demolitions, and fortunately Mike carried a lot of extra medical supplies because he put them to good use and I think he used just about everything he had. I know we used all that ammunition and everything we had. Hadn’t we not come out today, we were extracted. We probably would’ve never left the area, it was that serious. – I think when I got to that Marine I was down to shirt sleeves and bandanas. I think this young lady here? – Breech Axel with Netstar Broadcasting. You talked about being in that high intensity situation and from the best you can recall, can you describe how you handled that? How you remained calm and were able to administer help to others? – The way you maintain calmness in that situation is the fact that, what the military does is put you through extensive training. And you train and you train and you train. This was not my first go around. I had been in a mission that, with the colonel and Lieutenant Brown I think, – [McArly] Yeah, Brown. – Earlier, and I got through that one. I had been under fire at this, but you focus on what your job is. It’s the same thing with the other guys. I wasn’t concerned with what the NVA were doing, because that wasn’t my focus. I knew that the other guys were gonna take care of the perimeter. My job was to focus on the individuals that were hurt. When you focus in those kinds of circumstances, you don’t concern yourself about getting hurt or killed. Because if you dwell on that or think about that, you’re not gonna be able to focus on what you’re supposed to be doing and you probably will be hurt or killed. So you just gotta do your job and keep on moving down the road. Now you gotta understand, that’s a 70 year old man looking at what I think a 21 year old did 50 years ago. If you’d asked me back then, I probably, my answer would’ve been, I have no clue. – Anyone else? – When Operation Tailwind was declassified, what was the conversation like with friends and family when they found out you’d been involved? – A lot of people were surprised. At the time, you just told people what the report had been reported. That it didn’t happen, that was it. – So you just said to them, what was in that, what you saw on TV, that’s not what really happened. – Yeah, basically. – And as details came out and you were able to talk about it, what did you say to your wife, what did you say to your kids? – Margaret will actually tell you that until we went to the special forces association and were sitting down with the colonel here and Burnie Bright and first sergeant Adair, she will tell you until last June, she’d never really heard me talk about it. It wasn’t something we talked about. – [Woman] She was an Army wife for a long time, she knew better than to ask you lots of questions? – I don’t know if, you’d have to ask her that question, because I’ll tell you right now, I’m not answering for Margeret Mary-Rose. I am not answering for that lady, no. (chuckling) – Another question, so you retired from the Army eventually, you had a whole other career after this as an artillery officer. How did that experience in the Army compare to this really intense beginning of your career and what was that like carrying that around and being around other Vietnam veterans all the time and never being able to talk about it? – If you’re not supposed to talk about something, you gave you word that you would not talk about it. So you don’t think about it. So it’s not an issue. I just can’t give you a better answer than that. We’re professional soldiers, right, sir? – That’s right. – And they said this is what you’re gonna do and this is what you’re not gonna do. So you’ve raised your hand and you took an oath, and that’s what you do. It’s called service to your country and following the orders of those appointed above you. – It was something that we just didn’t talk about. To us, as professionals, it was a job. Even among the special forces friends, we didn’t really discuss that and go into detail. They were out doing things just as crazy and just as dangerous. Just as exciting if you want to phrase it like that. I didn’t try to forget it, but I never really talked about it. When I came back, it wasn’t until 30 years later, my children didn’t actually know what went on. They knew that something went on and that I was in combat and that I’d been shot a couple of times. As far as any details on the operation, it was something we just never talked about. – How did that experience of being, not just this, but being a special forces medic in Vietnam, how did that form your career as an officer for all those years afterword? – It’s different because you’re field artillery, so you’re dealing with stuff that weighs a lot. I might add that I would say today, if you were to ask a young person, or a senior officer like the colonel here, and I don’t mean to pull you into this, ma’am, but what I’m trying to say is if you were to ask somebody the same question today that’s on active duty, they’d probably just give you the same answer we did. If they were involved, I know if this colonel was involved in something that was classified and was told not to talk about it, she’s never gonna bring it up to her husband or her children or her mother or father. Because she’s a professional soldier, and she’s taken an oath to do. And it’s called service to your country, and service to your country means you abide by the rules. We are a country of the rule of law, and that’s what you should be doing. – [Woman] Christine Fisher with Fox News, just a quick question. Wondering what is it like for the two of you to be sitting side by side now almost 50 years later? – Happy. We’re alive. – Mike and I, we’ve remained friends for a lot of years. Sitting next to him is nothing new. It’s an honor and a privilege to be here with him today, knowing he is gonna be the recipient of the Medal of Honor. – I would also like to say that this gentleman, he’s been giving me a lot of credit, but this guy here, during those four days, he was controlling fighter aircraft, trying to bring in heavy lift Marine helicopters and Cobras, he’s also directing the ground operations at the same time and he would still come by along periodically with the first sergeant just to check on every one of us just to see how we’re doing. Coming by just to say hey, how’s things going? And regardless of the answer we gave him, we probably knew there wasn’t much he could really do to help us, the way the resources were. But just the fact that the man came by and you knew he was coming by just to boost your morale a little bit, that’s the kind of man he was and is. I consider it a privilege, a great privilege, to count myself amongst one of his friends. – Did you know at the time he was going to receive the Distinguished Service Cross and that his nomination had been downgraded, and what was your reaction to that? – I think that’s your question. – Yeah, that is your question. – I was terribly disappointed, to be honest. That’s just the way the system works. We accepted it as it was and tried to live with it as best we could. – When did you get the idea that idea that ooh, maybe now we can go back and try to rectify this. – We’ve been fighting for it for 47 years. The fight never stopped. We would lose ground and gain ground. It was just a constant fight through all the years. Fortunately, we had contact and had a lot of help from Senator Sessions and other high ranking VIPs that helped us and showed us the ropes. We were stumbling around in the dark, we didn’t know who to go to and we got an awful lot of help from Senator Sessions and the others. I can’t name names and I don’t want to leave anybody out. I’m really thankful for all of the help we got and we certainly got a lot of excellent help in pushing this award through. – There’s a representative Brooks in the House. I think it behooves both of to… Unfortunately, the one man who was really pushing for this passed away about four years ago. That was, Colonel Sadler was the Maxod commander at the time and he called in a lot of chip to get us out. I found out recently that on that fourth day on that extraction point that, excuse me, they were only going to take out the wounded. Fortunately, the colonel here was talking to the A1E Spad pilot, Tom Stump. And Stump told him if you don’t get them out all now, they’re not getting out. – We weren’t supposed to come out. We didn’t know that. We weren’t given much chance for survival. Real definite plans to extract us weren’t in the making until Colonel Sadler stepped in and said these men have got to come out and I need your helicopters. – So you’re continuing to learn details of your mission even up until now, is that the case? – I didn’t hear you. – You’re still continuing to learn details about Operation Tailwind, they’re still coming out even for you who were a part of it? – I can’t speak for everybody, but I can tell you any time I have a conversation and we talk, some of the people have done extensive research and gone through all of the stuff, yes, that is very true. There are a lot of things that I have learned almost constantly about it that I didn’t know before. I think this gentleman has a question. – John Packew with WVTM-13 in Birmingham, Alabama. You brought up Jeff Sessions and Brooks, they’re from Alabama. How again, describe their role in this process and how they were to helping you achieve this recognition. – Actually, the gentleman that you really should be asking that question would be Mr. Neil Thorne, who is a gentleman who has, how many, oh my god, he has got recognition for some 70 individuals or helped, god, from the Korean War and Vietnam and even currently some of the fellows over the last 15 years. Maybe the colonel– – Neil has become an expert on awards and decorations. He is, like Mike said, he was very instrumental in getting individual’s awards upgraded that went through, whatever reason, they were never awarded the citations they submitted or were downgraded to a lesser medal, just like Mike was downgraded from the Distinguished Service Cross. He received the Service Cross in lieu of the Medal of Honor, that was downgraded. Neil has taken it upon himself to help some of these individuals and he was very, very instrumental and he was the one who contacted Sessions and Brooks and some of these others. Neil is the man who deserves the credit. He can give you any information you need as far as what took place and how he did it. He was a real work horse in making this a successful endeavor. – I might add the Neil is a National Guardsman, or was, and he is, I think currently he’s a… – He works for FEMA. I don’t know, he might be in Puerto Rico, he might be in Texas, but he’s up to his neck in FEMA operations right now. – But there are a lot of people who have been involved in that. I even suspect there’s a lot of people that we don’t even know their names that have pushed this along over the years in the background so it’s been a, what’s great about it is there’s a lot of people in the Department of Defense and other agencies, Congress I guess, that have seen that people, this country needs to recognize veterans for the service they did and the recognition didn’t come at the time. Unfortunately, as time marches on, some of the recognition comes, it comes too late for the individual but it does come for the family. We cannot forget these men and women who have served this country so loyally and so valiantly and very quietly and have just continued to get out of the service and were and are good citizens and they do all they can to make the world a better place every morning, every day. Any other questions? This is easier than I thought. – Who are some of the battle buddies that are gonna be at the White House with you on Monday? – Can we not use that term? – There were 16 of us involved on Tailwind, two have passed away, two we cannot locate and haven’t had any contact with them since about 2000. But there’s 12 still alive and I managed to run them down and contact them and I had all 12, and in those 12 that’s Mike and myself. The other 10 will be with us sometime between now and Monday. – [Woman] That’s from the company– – That’s from the ones that were on the ground with us. In addition to that, we have Air Force pilots and Marine pilots who supported us. In all, we’re gonna have about 25 individuals who participated in Tailwind one way or another. – [Woman] You said 12 were gonna be there on Monday? – [Man] Including the two of you? – Yes, that’s including. – Including us two, yes. – Don’t forget that those Air Force pilots, like Tom Stump, he was… I don’t know how close to the ground he came when he came in on one of that final run to break up that charge that we were facing because there were only 35 of us left on the ground and we were down to about maybe 50 rounds between the two of us at that time and he came in so close, when he turned his head and I looked up, I couldn’t read his name, but I could see the lettering on his helmet, that’s how low he was when he was coming in. – You could almost tell whether he shaved that morning. He came in right on top of us. – And the ground fire from the antiaircraft, which was horrendous at the time, the Marines were taking a pounding. I was told later that the Marine ground crews weren’t telling the pilots, but when the Cobras were returning to refuel and refit and go back out, the ground crews were covering the holes up with 100 mile an hour tape and spraypainting the tape so the pilots, when they got back in, they didn’t see all the holes in their ship. – Like to tell you a little story about Tom. We were out, and I don’t remember what day, but we were really getting pounded heavy. I was communicating by radio with Tom who was out there flying over us and calling in ordinance. I kept saying bring it in closer, bring it in closer, bring it in 10 meters, and Tom said that’s getting mighty close. I said you still got to come in closer. Put it in my hip pocket. And he says I’m coming in hot, which pocket, right or left? – I didn’t hear that conversation, but I can tell you, when he came over, I don’t know if you know how an A1E dispenses its brass, but that brass just fell all around us. I don’t know how no one got hurt. At first I thought he had messed and was strafing us, but it was the brass from the .50 caliber was falling in on us. That’s pretty good sized stuff, probably a couple hundred miles an hour, probably hurts. – It’s red hot when it hits you. – If it was night, you could probably see it hit the ground, it would be glowing. – [Man] Very last quick question, have either of you returned to southeast Asia since your deployment? – Nope, no we have not. – What was that question? – Have you been back to Vietnam for a while? – No, I would like to go back, but the way the political situation is, I could not go into, I worked with the Montagnards for three years and I want to go into the areas where the Montagnards were. Since then the Montagnards have been moved into Cambodia, there’s probably very few Montagnards remaining in Vietnam. I would love to go back but now my legs would not allow me to go. – Before we close, gentlemen, thank you for sharing your story. Any final thoughts? – I would just like to repeat what I said initially that the Vietnam era veteran, I think with this medal and the Presidential Unit Citation, regardless of what capacity you served in or what service you were in, it honors what they have done because they did a great job. They were asked to do a very difficult thing and they did it and they fought hard and unfortunately a lot of them didn’t come home. I think this is a way to honor all their memories is by honoring those of us that are left. So we stand up for them and be a focal point on that honor. – Tailwind, to me, it was just one of many assignments I had doing my three years in Vietnam. The guys who went with, we were proud professionals. A member of a brotherhood. I think we served our country well. We did it for the love of our country, because we believe in America. I’m saying that in all honesty for all of the 15 men who were with me, we all believed in what we were fighting for and serving our country. I don’t know any better way to put it, we were just proud professionals doing what we were supposed to do. We weren’t out seeking medals, no one thought about medals, we just thought about accomplishing what we’d been asked to do. – Once again, gentlemen, thank you for sharing your story. This ends our media round table. Stand by while our guests exit.

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