A TRIBUTE TO SGT. LEONARD B. KELLER, MOH: MAY HE REST IN PIECE
Congressman Jeff Miller, (R-Fla., 1st Dist.)
Many Americans woke up this morning and turned on the television or searched the internet to find out the latest on Tiger Woods and his wrecked black Cadillac Escalade. However, on this rainy morning in Northern Virginia, another black Cadillac meandered through rolling hills on hallowed ground. This vehicle carried Medal of Honor recipient, Sergeant Leonard B. Keller, to his final resting place at Arlington National Cemetery.
While a high profile athlete remained ensconced in his luxury mansion behind the walls of his gated community, a caisson with six black horses slowly walked along the rain soaked asphalt. Family members followed, huddled close to each other beneath umbrellas trying to shield themselves from the rainy and dreary cold morning. They came to pay tribute to a father, grandfather, brother, and friend.
As the cars drove past on State Road 110 and planes flew overhead leaving Reagan National Airport, I am sure no one knew who was being buried, their name, age, or hometown. On this day it was a man who showed uncommon valor in the jungles of Vietnam.
On May 2, 1967, Sergeant Leonard B. Keller and his unit were sweeping through an area in Vietnam where an enemy ambush had occurred earlier. The unit suddenly came under intense automatic weapons and small-arms fire from a number of enemy bunkers and numerous snipers in nearby trees. Sgt. Keller quickly moved to a position where he could fire at a bunker from which automatic fire was received, killing one Viet Cong who attempted to escape. Leaping to the top of a dike, he and a comrade charged the enemy bunkers, dangerously exposing themselves to the enemy fire. Armed with a light machine gun, Sgt. Keller and his comrade began a systematic assault on the enemy bunkers. While Sgt. Keller neutralized the fire from the first bunker with his machinegun, the other soldier threw in a hand grenade, killing its occupant. Then he and the other soldier charged a second bunker, killing its occupant. A third bunker contained an automatic rifleman who had pinned down much of the friendly platoon. Again, with utter disregard for the fire directed to them, the two men charged, killing the enemy within.
Continuing their attack, Sgt. Keller and his comrade assaulted four more bunkers and eliminated the enemy threat. During their furious assault, Sgt. Keller and his comrade had been almost continuously exposed to intense sniper fire as the enemy desperately sought to stop their attack. The ferocity of their assault had carried the soldiers beyond the line of bunkers into the tree line, forcing snipers to flee. The two men gave immediate chase, driving the enemy away from the friendly unit. When his ammunition was exhausted, Sgt. Keller returned to the platoon to assist in the evacuation of the wounded. The two-man assault had driven an enemy platoon from a well prepared position, accounted for numerous enemy dead, and prevented further friendly casualties. Sgt. Keller's selfless heroism and indomitable fighting spirit saved the lives of many of his comrades and inflicted serious damage on the enemy.
People fall from grace from time to time -- politicians, athletes, pastors, and others. We are human and far from perfect. Why is it that so many are more interested in the tabloid news of today than the true life stories of real Americans, real heroes? Those who always give more than they take. Those who are determined to leave this world a better place than they found it.
This morning a man was buried in the hallowed ground of Arlington National Cemetery. A man of simple means. Not a billionaire or a star athlete. Too often we put more attention on work or the material things a person has rather than the things a person does.
As I stood at the gravesite this morning and watched the four other Medal of Honor recipients in attendance salute as soldiers slowly folded the American flag that draped Sgt. Keller's casket, I was reminded of the thousands of men and women who make tremendous sacrifices defending this great nation. Sgt. Keller and the 92 living Medal of Honor recipients are heroes in every sense of the word. They have all answered the call of duty, but more than that, they have placed the lives of others and the liberty of an entire nation above their own lives. They were all willing to make the ultimate sacrifice so that we may all enjoy the fruits of freedom.
On this week after Thanksgiving, I am thankful for heroes like Sgt. Leonard B. Keller. May God Bless Sgt. Keller and his family. Sgt Leonard Keller served with A/CO 9th I D.
FURTHER TRIBUTE BY KEN DELFINO, NAVY "RIVER RAT" AND PURPLE HEART VETERAN:
The other end of the spectrum.....
9ID stands for the 9th Infantry Division that operated in the Mekong Delta of South Viet Nam. The river patrol force often worked with the 9th and its own naval unit, the Mobile Riverine Force on Delta operations.
BRAVO ZULU SGT Keller
I wish you Fair Winds and Following Seas...
REES LLOYD (American Legion Life Member and Judge Advocate Post 79; Past Commander and Scribe, District 21; Attorney and Director, Defense of Veterans Memorials Project of The American Legion Dept. of California)
Washington Post: Medal of Honor recipient is laid to rest