Friday, September 7, 2012

Local war hero deserving of new/accurate markers

By Mike Ullery
Chief Photographer

“For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of (his) life above and beyond the call of duty.”

Those words describe the actions taken by those who are recipients of the Medal of Honor, the highest award for bravery and service that our country can bestow upon a deserving warrior.

When one thinks of a hero, he or she needs to look no farther than the 3458 men, and one woman, who have earned our nation’s highest award for bravery — above and beyond the call of duty.

We are blessed to be the hometown of one of those truly heroic individuals. Staff Sgt. William H. Pitsenbarger, a 1962 graduate of Piqua High School, grew up in Piqua.

After joining the Air Force, Pitsenbarger volunteered for service as a para-rescue specialist. For those unfamiliar, a pararescueman knowingly and willingly enters a combat situation where other soldiers have already been wounded, then knowingly and willingly enters the combat zone, putting his own life in danger in order to save others.

During the Vietnam war, Pitsenbarger and fellow para-rescue men, entered situations where American troops were under enemy fire, by being lowered into the chaos and danger from a helicopter hovering above the action.

Such was the case in April of 1966 when Pitsenbarger came to the aid of fallen soldiers engaged in a firefight near Saigon. After giving aide to the wounded, Pitsenbarger refused the opportunity to leave the battlefield and chose to stay to offer assistance to additional wounded.

The Piqua native was killed while offering that aide. His body was found after the battle, a rifle in one hand and a medical kit in the other.

Pitsenbarger was originally awarded the Air Force Cross, the nation’s second highest award for valor in combat. In December of 2000, the Medal of Honor was bestowed upon the fallen hero.

What is puzzling to me, and some others in our city, is the lack of acknowledgement or at least accurate acknowledgement. Yes, we have a park named after him. The plaque in the park fails to recognize the highest tribute our country can give. Only the Ohio Historical Marker at the Veteran’s Memorial acknowledges that Pitsenbarger was awarded the Medal of Honor. Is this the best that we can do for him?

A total of 249 Medals of Honor were awarded during the entire span of the war in Vietnam. There have been only 253 Medals of Honor bestowed on Ohio servicemen in the 151 year history of the Medal, only 10 of those during the Vietnam War.

Why then, has one of our service groups or the city, not picked up the guidon and seen to it that one of Piqua’s — and our nation’s — greatest heroes is recognized and honored properly by the latest and most accurate information?

How large of a sacrifice would it be to see that one of Piqua’s own is duly recognized? What of the sacrifice paid by William Pitsenbarger … and his family?

Someone is bound to say that cost is a factor. What of the cost paid by Pitsenbarger?

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13) I’m not one to quote Bible verses, but I can think of nothing more appropriate — or deserving.

Don’t we owe this to a man who gave everything for us?

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