Sergeant and Mrs. Morris, and Doug, Secretary Resor, General Johnson, General Westmoreland, distinguished Members of Congress from Virginia, and other Representatives here, distinguished guests:
One of America's greatest war correspondents wrote about courage--intimately and well.
He called the decorations for bravery "pinnacles of triumph" in a man's life, "that will stand out until the day he dies."
Ernie Pyle spoke for all wars--for all those moments when men must reach down into their deepest reserves of courage. He celebrated those times when men risk life for a principle--or risk life for a comrade--or risk their lives for their country.
On whatever field, on whatever day--war is an agony of spirit and flesh and mind.
After thousands of years of civilization, the saddest of human failures is this--the precious wealth of man's courage must still today be spent on the battlefield.
But all the wisdom of the earth has not yet found a way to preserve freedom without defending it.
Staff Sergeant Charles Morris is one of those who defended freedom on the battlefield. He fought with dogged courage through long hours of hell. He fought far above and far beyond the call of any duty.
Just a few days ago, I returned from a journey of 33 hours and 6,000 miles, where I met thousands of Sergeant Morris' comrades.
I stood with American sailors on the deck of a mighty carrier, the Enterprise, at sea in the Pacific Ocean. I stood with our airmen under skies that were filled with American power, many of them who had just finished their 100 missions in Vietnam. I saluted the infantry, the Queen of the Battle, at Fort Benning, and the Marines at El Toro and Camp Pendleton. And I ended my trip at Yorktown with the gallant men of the Coast Guard.
Some of the men that I saw were there just beginning their training for combat.
Some of the men I saw had just returned from combat. They wore its badges--and many of them wore its wounds. I saw other badges, too.
I saw the white carnations that were worn by wives of the missing men.
I saw the loneliness on the faces of waiting families, and little boys and girls.
I felt oh so humble to be among these men and women. But I also felt a towering pride--pride in them--pride in this Nation.
I realized that some good day, war was going to be only a shadowed memory.
We will labor, with all of our passion and with all the strength God gives us, to quicken the coming of that day.
But until it does come, our lives, our safety, and our hope of freedom's survival are in the hands of all those like Sergeant Morris, all of those who serve--here and in Vietnam.
Sergeant Charles Morris was there when America needed him.
And I am so glad that his commander, General Westmoreland, could be here today to observe this ceremony concerning one of his very own soldiers.
Once before, I stood with General Westmoreland at a ceremony for Sergeant Morris when he enjoyed one of his other "pinnacles of triumph." It was at Cam Ranh Bay in Vietnam, just a little bit more than a year ago. Upon General Westmoreland's suggestion I awarded Sergeant Morris the Distinguished Service Cross.
Today, I am so proud to stand with him again, here in the East Room of the White House, on a hero's very highest summit--the Medal of Honor.
Sergeant Morris, I don't know anything more or anything better that I could say to you than all the American people for whom I am supposed to speak are grateful to you and appreciative that the Good Lord has given you to us and has brought you back. May God bless you.
Secretary Resor will now read the citation.
[Text of citation read by Secretary of the Army Stanley R. Resor]
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, March 3, 1863, has awarded in the name of The Congress the Medal of Honor to
STAFF SERGEANT CHARLES B. MORRIS, UNITED STATES ARMY
for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty:
While on a search and destroy mission in the Republic of Vietnam on 29 June 1966, Staff Sergeant (then Sergeant) Morris was a leader of the point squad of a platoon of Company A, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry. Seeing indications of the enemy's presence in the area, Sergeant Morris deployed his squad and continued forward alone to make a reconnaissance. He unknowingly crawled within 20 meters of an enemy machine gun, whereupon the gunner fired, wounding him in the chest. Sergeant Morris instantly returned the fire and killed the gunner. Continuing to crawl within a few feet of the gun, he hurled a grenade and killed the remainder of the enemy crew.
Although in pain and bleeding profusely, Sergeant Morris continued his reconnaissance. Returning to the platoon area, he reported the results of his reconnaissance to the platoon leader. As he spoke, the platoon came under heavy fire. Refusing medical attention for himself, he deployed his men in better firing positions confronting the entrenched enemy to his front.
Then for eight hours the platoon engaged the numerically superior enemy force. Withdrawal was impossible without abandoning many wounded and dead. Finding the platoon "medic" dead, Sergeant Morris administered first aid to himself, and was returning to treat the wounded members of his squad with the "medic's" first aid kit when he was again wounded. Knocked down and stunned, he regained consciousness and continued to treat the wounded, reposition his men, and inspire and encourage their efforts. Wounded again when an enemy grenade shattered his left hand, nonetheless he personally took up the fight and armed and threw several grenades which killed a number of enemy soldiers. Seeing that an enemy machine gun had maneuvered behind his platoon and was delivering fire upon his men, Sergeant Morris and another man crawled toward the gun to knock it out. His comrade was killed and Sergeant Morris sustained another wound, but firing his rifle with one hand, he silenced the enemy machine gun. Returning to the platoon, he courageously exposed himself to the devastating enemy fire to drag the wounded to a protected area, and with utter disregard for his personal safety and the pain he suffered, he continued to lead and direct the efforts of his men until relief arrived.
Upon termination of the battle, important documents were found among the enemy dead revealing a planned ambush of a Republic of Vietnam battalion. Use of this information prevented the ambush and saved many lives. Sergeant Morris' conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty were instrumental in the successful defeat of the enemy, saved many lives, and were in the highest traditions of the United States Army.
LYNDON B. JOHNSON
[Following the reading of the citation, the President resumed speaking.]
General Westmoreland, would you favor us by making a comment or two? We are so proud to have you.
General Westmoreland and I just finished a long briefing.
He, Mrs. Westmoreland, and their daughter, Margaret, are our guests at the White House. We will be visiting together in the next few days.
I know how you must feel about your men. I thought you might like to say a few words.
[At this point General Westmoreland stated that he knew Sergeant Morris. "We are not only fellow soldiers, but we are friends. I saw him at Cam Ranh Bay when he was decorated ... by our Commander in Chief. I saw him several times in the hospital. The indomitable spirit that he displayed on the battlefield ... he displayed in the hospital every time I saw him--self-confident, proud to be a soldier, proud m serve his country ... , proud to be an American." The General then recalled that he had told the President at that time that there were no finer troops than those commanded by President Johnson around the world as well as in Vietnam.]