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Gerald R. Ford: Remarks on Awarding the Congressional Medal of Honor to WO Louis R. Rocco and S. Sgt. Jon R. Cavaiani, United States Army.
Gerald
Gerald R. Ford
293 - Remarks on Awarding the Congressional Medal of Honor to WO Louis R. Rocco and S. Sgt. Jon R. Cavaiani, United States Army.
December 12, 1974
Public Papers of the Presidents
Gerald R. Ford<br>1974
Gerald R. Ford
1974
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Secretary Schlesinger, Secretary Callaway, our distinguished recipients, ladies and gentlemen:

It is, of course, a great blessing that the last American soldier is home from the battlefields of Vietnam. Our landing ships again, fortunately, have long since departed those distant shores. And our planes have long ago flown their last mission on the war across those faraway jungles.

Let us, individually and collectively, fervently pray that Vietnam was, indeed, the last---our last war.

We are, however, reminded of Vietnam today--of that long and painful time--by two men who lived it and whose actions will never die in the annals of the United States military history. For the Nation they served bestows on them today the Congressional Medal of Honor for their acts of courage above and beyond the call of duty.

United States Army Warrant Officer Louis Rocco--Sergeant First Class in Vietnam--and Army Staff Sergeant Jon R. Cavaiani, by the courage of their acts, carried forward the long and very proud military tradition of selfless dedication to the cause of freedom.

Army Warrant Officer Louis Rocco distinguished himself on May 24, 1970. He volunteered to help evacuate eight critically wounded South Vietnamese troops under attack. His helicopter crash-landed at the evacuation site under intense enemy fire. Ignoring a fractured wrist and broken hip and severely bruised back, Warrant Officer Rocco pulled the unconscious survivors from the burning wreckage. His hands were severely burned, causing him excruciating pain. He nevertheless carried each of his unconscious comrades more than 20 yards through enemy fire to friendly positions. Trained in first aid, he administered to them before collapsing into unconsciousness.

Warrant Officer Rocco's bravery was directly responsible for saving three of his fellow soldiers from certain death. His gallantry, disregarding his own pain and injuries, is in the highest tradition of self-sacrifice and courage in our military service.

And I say to his family here today, you also walk in the respect and admiration of your country and of your President.

Sergeant Cavaiani was believed to have been killed in action when recommended for the Medal of Honor. It was only later learned that he had been captured. He was a prisoner of war for more than 2 years and was repatriated on July 10, 1973.

On June 4 and 5, 1971, he served as a platoon leader, providing security for an isolated radio relay site within enemy-held territory. The Sergeant's unit was attacked by a superior enemy force. For those 2 days, firing with different weapons, Sergeant Cavaiani directed the evacuation of some of his platoon by helicopter while ordering the others to escape. Many were able to do so. He remained, however, exposing himself to heavy enemy fire. Sergeant Cavaiani was wounded numerous times, finally falling to his captors.

We are honored that the Sergeant's family is here with us today. The President of the United States wishes to tell them in person that Sergeant Cavaiani is an American of extraordinary heroism, and his valor reflects well on all of them.

This day is witness to the fact that the bravest of the brave still rise from among our people, that freedom and that justice have survived and will survive, that peace is still our most precious and enduring goal, and that we the American people will forever cherish the noble deeds, the noble ideals entrusted to us these past two centuries by our forefathers.

These ideals do not sleep. They are not silent. They live among us here today in the presence of Jon Robert Cavaiani and Louis Richard Rocco and their families.
The Secretary of the Army will now read the citations.

[At this point, Secretary of the Army Howard H. Callaway read the citations. The President then resumed speaking.]

Thank you very much, Secretary Callaway, Secretary Schlesinger, ladies and gentlemen. I thank you all for being here.

It is a very wonderful occasion paying tribute and honor to two very gallant and wonderful soldiers in the very highest and the very best traditions of the United States military service.
I suggest now that we all might go into the State Dining Room and have some refreshments.


Note: The President spoke at 3:09 p.m. in the East Room at the White House. The texts of the citations follow:

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

WARRANT OFFICER LOUIS R. ROCCO UNITED STATES ARMY
for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty:

Warrant Officer (then Sergeant First Class) Louis R. Rocco, United States Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, Advisory Team 162, distinguished himself on 24 May 1970, northeast of Katum, Republic of Vietnam, when he volunteered to accompany a medical evacuation team on an urgent mission to evacuate eight critically wounded Army of the Republic of Vietnam personnel. As the helicopter approached the landing zone, it became the target for intense enemy automatic weapons fire. Disregarding his own safety, Warrant Officer Rocco identified and placed accurate suppressive fire on the enemy positions as the aircraft descended toward the landing zone. Sustaining major damage from the enemy fire, the aircraft was forced to crash land, causing Warrant Officer Rocco to sustain a fractured wrist and hip and a severely bruised back. Ignoring his injuries, he extracted the survivors from the burning wreckage, sustaining burns to his own body. Despite intense enemy fire, Warrant Officer Rocco carried each unconscious man across approximately twenty meters of exposed terrain to the Army of the Republic of Vietnam perimeter. On each trip, his severely burned hands and broken wrist caused excruciating pain, but the lives of the unconscious crash survivors were more important than his personal discomfort, and he continued his rescue efforts. Once inside the friendly position, Warrant Officer Rocco helped administer first aid to his wounded comrades until his wounds and burns caused him to collapse and lost consciousness. His bravery under fire and intense devotion to duty were directly responsible for saving three of his fellow soldiers from certain death. His unparalleled bravery in the face of enemy fire, his complete disregard for his own pain and injuries, and his performance were far above and beyond the call of duty and were in keeping with the highest traditions of self-sacrifice and courage of the military service.

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 JON R. CAVAIANI UNITED STATES ARMY
for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty:

Staff Sergeant Jon R. Cavaiani, United States Army Vietnam Training Advisory Group, distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty in action in the Republic of Vietnam on 4 and 5 June 1971 while serving as a platoon leader to a security platoon providing security for an isolated radio relay site located within enemy-held territory. On the morning of 4 June 1971, the entire camp came under an intense barrage of enemy small arms, automatic weapons, rocket-propelled grenade and mortar fire from a superior size enemy force. Sergeant Cavaiani acted with complete disregard for his personal safety as he repeatedly exposed himself to heavy enemy fire in order to move about the camp's perimeter directing the platoon's fire and rallying the platoon in a desperate fight for survival. Sergeant Cavaiani also returned heavy suppressive fire upon the assaulting enemy force during this period with a variety of weapons. When the entire platoon was to be evacuated, Sergeant Cavaiani unhesitatingly volunteered to remain on the ground and direct the helicopters into the landing zone. Sergeant Cavaiani was able to direct the first three helicopters in evacuating a major portion of the platoon. Due to intense increase in enemy fire, Sergeant Cavaiani was forced to remain at the camp overnight where he calmly directed the remaining platoon members in strengthening their defenses. On the morning of 5 June, a heavy ground fog restricted visibility. The superior size enemy force launched a major ground attack in an attempt to completely annihilate the remaining small force. The enemy force advanced in two ranks, first firing a heavy volume of small arms automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenade fire while the second rank continuously threw a steady barrage of hand grenades at the beleaguered force. Sergeant Cavaiani returned a heavy barrage of small arms and hand grenade, fire on the assaulting enemy force but was unable to slow them down. He ordered the remaining platoon members to attempt to escape while he provided them with cover fire. With one last courageous exertion, Sergeant Cavaiani recovered a machine gun, stood up, completely exposing himself to the heavy enemy fire directed at him, and began firing the machine gun in a sweeping motion along the two ranks of advancing enemy soldiers. Through Sergeant Cavaiani's valiant efforts with complete disregard for his safety, the majority of the remaining platoon members were able to escape. While inflicting severe losses on the advancing enemy force, Sergeant Cavaiani was wounded numerous times. Staff Sergeant Cavaiani's conspicuous gallantry, extraordinary heroism and intrepidity at the risk of his life, above and beyond the call of duty, were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Army.


Citation: Gerald R. Ford: "Remarks on Awarding the Congressional Medal of Honor to WO Louis R. Rocco and S. Sgt. Jon R. Cavaiani, United States Army.," December 12, 1974. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=4624.
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