Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks Upon Awarding the Silver Star Posthumously to Sgt. Harry A. Walling

August 22, 1964

Mrs. Walling, ladies and gentlemen:

On the 19th day of June, this year, a young and brave American set out into the jungles of a distant land--half-a-world away. He walked at the side of a patrol of young and brave Vietnamese. Their purpose--and his--was to defend freedom against its aggressors.

The name of that American was Harry A. Walling.

He was a sergeant of the United States Army--a proud member of the proud Special Forces who wear the green beret.

When the Vietnamese patrol came under attack, the only thought of Sergeant Walling was for the patrol--and for its success. He gave no thought to safety or to self. Those who recovered his body found that--before he died--Sergeant Walling had fired his every round of ammunition.

We have come today to bestow upon Sergeant Walling one of our country's highest honors. No medal, no words, no eulogy of ours can honor him so highly as he has honored our country and our cause. But we can--and we must always--honor ourselves by working everywhere we can, in every way we can, for a world of peace in which the young and the brave need not die in war.

When Sergeant Walling fell, he left behind his young widow and three young children-the oldest age 3, the youngest now 4 months old. Mrs. Walling's bravery is no less than her husband's.

Two nights after she learned her husband would never return, Mrs. Walling wrote out a message to the other wives of her husband's unit. That remarkable letter has deeply touched all who have read it--including the Commander in Chief. I would like to read these lines from it:

"I know that you are all afraid for your husbands and you love them as much as I loved my husband. He loved me just as your husbands do you, and he didn't want to die. He had so much to live for. But he was a brave man and a fighting man .... My husband died for what he believed in, and if he had a choice of where and how he would die, he would choose the same place-fighting for a decent world for his children to grow up in ....

"So don't let the world, the loneliness, the despair and the fear get you down. Stand as tall as that man of yours who wears the beret and thank God you got him .... My prayers are that all of your husbands come home to you safe and well."

I am proud now on behalf of the Nation to bestow the Silver Star, posthumously, upon Sergeant Harry A. Walling.

The distinguished Acting Secretary of Defense, Mr. Vance, will read the citation.

Note: The President spoke shortly after noon in the Rose Garden at the White House. His opening words referred to Mrs. Harry A. Walling, who accepted the award on behalf of her husband. Among others present were Maj. Gen. William P. Yarborough, Commanding General of the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center at Ft. Bragg, N.C., and a group of 13 Special Forces sergeants he brought with him for the ceremony.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks Upon Awarding the Silver Star Posthumously to Sgt. Harry A. Walling Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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