WASHINGTON – For decades, Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Richard L. “Dick” Etchberger’s courage under fire was kept as secret as the mission that placed him on a remote Laotian mountain, high above the clouds, in March 1968.
Now, his bravery that day can be written in stone.
President Barack Obama on Tuesday posthumously recognized Etchberger for service “beyond the call of duty” by giving him the nation’s highest military award, the Medal of Honor. Obama said those three words can now be etched into a granite monument to Etchberger’s memory at Barksdale Air Force base in Louisiana.
“Even though it’s been 42 years,” Obama said at a ceremony with Etchberger’s three sons, “it’s never too late to do the right thing and it’s never too late to pay tribute to our Vietnam veterans and their families.”
Etchberger was part of a radar team that came under attack by North Vietnamese soldiers who had improbably scaled the heights to Lima Site 85, a radar installation helping to direct U.S. bombing of Hanoi. The mission was secret because the U.S. was not supposed to have troops in officially neutral Laos.