Despite the odds stacked against him, Taylor refused to give up on his fellow soldiers. The large Huey helicopter that had been sent to rescue them had already abandoned its attempt, citing the high likelihood of failure. But Taylor, flying in his two-man Cobra helicopter, was determined to save them. He landed in the middle of the firefight, with his helicopter nearly out of ammunition. The soldiers clung to the helicopter's skids and rocket pods as Taylor lifted them to safety. It was a rescue mission that had never been attempted before during the war.
President Biden awarded Taylor the Medal of Honor at the White House, praising his "conspicuous gallantry" and his complete disregard for his own safety. Biden wore a mask during the ceremony as a precautionary measure after the first lady, Jill Biden, tested positive for the coronavirus. However, he removed his mask when he began speaking, with Taylor sitting about 15 feet away.
Biden commended Taylor for refusing to leave a fellow American behind and for putting the lives of others above his own. After presenting Taylor with the medal, the two men shook hands and saluted each other. Biden then left the room, even as the benediction was being read.
Taylor, who joined the Army in 1966 and eventually rose to the rank of captain, was originally awarded the Silver Star for his actions in 1968. However, Biden upgraded the award to the Medal of Honor, recognizing Taylor's extraordinary bravery and self-sacrifice.
During the ceremony, Biden recounted the events of that fateful night. Taylor's helicopter was not intended for rescue missions, but he refused to give up. Despite running low on fuel and ammunition, he used his landing lights to distract the enemy forces, allowing the soldiers to reach an extraction point. Taylor's helicopter was repeatedly hit by enemy fire, but he managed to extract the soldiers and fly them to safety.
The president emphasized how Taylor's actions had a profound impact on the lives of the soldiers he saved. Family members of those men have approached Taylor in recent years, expressing their gratitude for saving their loved ones' lives.
The Medal of Honor is the highest military honor awarded to members of the military who display exceptional bravery and self-sacrifice. Taylor's actions on that night in 1968 met the criteria for this prestigious award.
In an interview, Taylor expressed his humble attitude towards the recognition. He stated, "You just do whatever is expedient and do whatever to save the lives of the people you're trying to rescue."
Taylor's bravery and dedication to saving lives have left an indelible mark on the history of the Vietnam War. His actions serve as a testament to the valor and selflessness displayed by countless soldiers during that tumultuous time.
themes: Military War