tv Medal of Honor Recipients CSPAN December 24, 2016 9:20am-10:06am EST
maraniss, author of "barack obama." sunday, january 1, on c-span2. >> next on american history tv, we hear from three medal of honor recipients from the vietnam war and the war in afghanistan. the medal of honor is the highest honor for valor given for combat, given by the president in the name of congress. this was part of a three-day conference hosted by the americans veteran center. >> all right, let's get under way. another highlight panel of our conference. if you've seen the program, you know that is an understatement. to moderate this panel on the medal of honor, i would like to welcome to the podium michael g caldwell, who is the chief officer of the medal of honor foundation. mike? [applause]
mr. caldwell: thank you. it is a pleasure to be with you this morning. we thank you. we thank you for the decision you have made at a very young age to serve our great country in uniform. it is an important decision. it is a critical decision. it is a decision that will probably be one of the most important you will ever make in your life, and we need you. we not only need you for the skills that you bring, but for the leadership that is inside of you. because we always have plenty of infantrymen and pilots and public affairs officers like i was and my wife was, but we will never have a glut of leadership. yet we will always take that. so thank you for what you're doing. in the essence of time, i will introduce our medal of honor recipients, but i will not go into a lot of detail about what
they did. you can see their stories online at themedalof honor.com, and i encourage you to check that out. but i will say one thing about all gentlemen sitting before you, that they no doubt felt fear in combat. but they chose courage. when we absolutely needed them to do that, and they saved the lives of hundreds of american soldiers. a little bit about the medal of honor before i introduce them. the medal of honor was first signed into law by president lincoln in 1851.
61. >> sorry, we are getting everything ready. [laughter] mr. caldwell: that is all right. the medal of honor was signed into law in 1861 by president lincoln. the first medal was presented in 1862. since then, 43 million americans, 43 million people observed in the military. men and women serving in the military since that medal was first presented, and only 3496 people have received the medal of honor. today, there are 76 living recipients of the medal, and we're blessed to have three of them here today to speak with you. i will start with the introductions. on my far left, is retired sergeant first class, melvin morris one of the original green berets. melvin, thank you for joining us. [applause] mr. caldwell: and he is here today with his lovely wife who
, mary, who is in the front row. thank you, mary, if you will, stand. [applause] mr. caldwell: next to melvin is army pilot and engineer bruce crandall. [applause] mr. caldwell: and of course, to my immediate left, another sergeant ryan pitts. gentlemen, i have several questions, and they are all for everyone, so please jump in at any point. after you received your medal, you could have gone back home and lived out your life in relative obscurity, but you have made a commitment to perpetuate the legacy of the medal and its values -- courage, integrity, citizenship, patriotism. why is that important to you? melvin, we will start with you.
morris: it is very important to me. first off, you do not win the medal of honor. it is a recognition, and you cannot put yourself in a situation to get the medal. if you do, something is awfully wrong. it is an award that takes quite a few witnesses. it takes a lot of scrutiny. a lot of detailed investigation before you receive the award. personally, for me, i am very, very proud to be a recipient of the medal of honor. i was a green beret on and off in my military career for 18 years.
i have been in numerous combats. i never thought of receiving the medal of honor or earning it or however you want to put it, being recognized for it. but since i do have it now, i feel like it is part of me to go out and reach out to all of the young cadets, midshipmen, aviators, the young schoolchildren. i am very passionate about that. our country is as strong as our has theountry is th strong as military in the world. it is not broken. but it will be broken if we do not continue to have people like you. the young men and women who will be officers in the future. you are tomorrow's leaders. [applause] sgt. morris: what i was telling hat is offi say "my
to you," because once you swear in the oath, once you put your on, once you put your boots on the ground, it does not matter what field you are in. you are a hero as far as i'm concerned because you took that step two honor your country and do your part, and for me, that is very important. i do the best i can to live up to the standard of the medal of honor, which is very, very high. i feel obligated that i should go out and share my military history, and i live the medal of honor every day because that is part of our heritage, and that is where i recognize the military for their achievements. i mean, i cannot explain the overwhelming feeling i have with this around my neck.
that means i have to do the best i can to honor that tradition of , to honor medal of honor, and that is all i can say. i am proud to be american. i am proud to have served in the military. i want to thank you. i cannot say anymore. [applause] >> i think those values transcend the individual recipient. they are embodied by everyone in this room and uniform and everyone who's going to wear the uniform. in most cases with the medal of honor being awarded, usually the recipient has been killed or other people of been killed and that day. they embody those values more than anyone else. we are here to tell the story. that is where the responsibility comes back for me.
the day i was awarded it was a team effort. nine guys did not come home that day. i am here because of those guys. they embody those values. i just hope i can be half the men that they were. and the responsibility of sharing their story and those values accompany the award. [applause] mr. crandall: i am the oldest one up, i think. when i received the award in 2007, it was the greatest honor i have ever had.
the award exemplified the variance in the people who get it. there is no common he nominated for all of us. you can see he is young and handsome and educated and a pain in the butt. [laughter] crandall: for guys like me, it was very late in my life, 2007. one received it in 2001, and other received at one the fighting took place. there were 301 people were killed that week. today we do not do that. we understand you have to keep your men alive if you are a commander. that is one of the responsibilities. i am an advocate of service.
the problem we have that has been coming up is, if you are going to face demand, you have the draft. the draft is the worst thing that ever happened in the military. a young man robbing gas stations and doing other things in his community, he had a choice of going to army or going to jail. we took him. all he had to do is choose that. he was just switching one jail for another because we had the largest stockade. if you hear a congressman talking about do draft, get a different congressman because we should never do that again. people who wear this award have one thing in common, they understand they did what they were supposed to do and it was the thing we were trained to do. we would expect anyone who is in our position to respond in a like manner. having said that, i will never jump on a hand grenade. i talked to young men that survived that, throwing a hand grenade away one lost his right
hand grenade,g a throwing it away from a group. he said he would do it all over again, but he would throw it left-handed. [laughter] lt. col. crandall: we are real proud of the men in afghanistan medal because they feel about it the same way we do. that group would lay down for all of us. we know it is for everyone, not for us. we know when we wear it, our conduct has to reflect pride in that. i have a good conduct medal i wear under my collar to remind me -- that is a hell of a lot harder to explain to me. [laughter] lt. col. crandall: you will find of the medal of honor recipients, everyone feels the same way.
this is for everyone who has ever been on the battlefield, my unit, we got recognized that it does not mean we were the only ones doing what had to be done. so, when you see a medal of honor recipient, you will know that he has been changed. we've had only one woman. we will have more. the women in the army today are embarrassingly better than what i was. [laughter] lt. col. crandall: that is not saying much. [laughter] lt. col. crandall: anyway, want to thank all of you for going through the program, in rotc or the service academy. that is the finest education you will ever get, particularly if you go to west point and beat navy. [laughter and applause] lt. col. crandall: thank you.
sgt. morris: i want to make one comment. it is important. it always stays with me. it rings in my head. there is no greater love for your country than that you should give your life for this country. so, if you think about it, i mean, you are sitting out there , and some of you will do that, will give your lives for your country. and that is the biggest honor ever. when you are willing to sacrifice your life for your country. and that sticks with me. if i had to give mine, i would give it right away because i do believe in what we have. the greatest country in the world. [applause] mr. caldwell: thank you.
my next question is, in the realization that we have a room full of rotc cadets here who will undoubtedly serve in the military very soon, what are your expectations for these cadets as future leaders in the military and in our country ? your expectations for them? sgt. morris: i expect you to live up to what you want. you are an officer. if you want to be an officer, i expect you to live up to that. [cell phone rings] sgt. morris: cut off that phone. [laughter] sgt. morris: i have challenged a lot of cadets, when you start out remember one thing. i am an enlisted man. i have 23 years of service. you are a talented young officer. you should get to me as quick as
i can because i have experience and he is starting to learn. you graduate, but you do not know anything. but guess what, that old gunny, that chief master sergeant, the sergeant first class, that team sergeant, or the first sergeant, they have all that knowledge they will share with you, and one other fact. i am an infantry man. i went into infantry. always infantry. one thing i did learn in the infantry, and they taught us this, to be a squad leader, you have got to be able to gain the respect, the loyalty, and the willingness and obedience of your men. if you cannot gain those, you cannot lead. you are leaders. you are leaders. and you are at the level where you have to work the hardest. i will say one thing to you. you can be hard, but be fair. don't ever let your anger or
your temper ruin somebody's career because you cannot deal with a situation. this is when you go to your senior enlisted. remember that. if you deal with your senior enlisted, you will go a long way. that is a given. onelrank like the col here, you pretty well have your feet on solid ground, and i guarantee you, he went to senior enlisted when he was a colonel, you see. so use all of your tools, and you will be successful. if you do the right thing, that will follow you. ok? two pitts: for me, it is basic principles that when i look back guided me through my short career, shorter than these two gentlemen. first was always place the mission first. don't forget that is why you're there, that is why you wear the uniform, to go and fight and win our nation's wars.
that is a more important priority, and that is encompassing everything, including the training whether it is taking action on the battlefield, whether it is whatever it is. and appreciating what your mission is. looking back on my career, i was always with the infantry and the airborne, and we had the area arrogance of the airborne infantry unit and if you're not , in the infantry, you are nothing. and that was wrong. at the time, right, you never go in and say you're going to do your second-best or good enough. you think you are the best. when i look back now, i know every job is important. from people turning the wrenches on the medevac helicopters. those birds do not fly if they are not working. the people who put the fuel in there. i will tell you my favorite people -- cooks, medics. [laughter] sgt. pitts: every job is
important, so think about the role you play in that mission and why it is a part. it is easy to get lost and feel like you are just a cog in this big war machine but what you do is important. there are people counting on you, not just in uniform but 300 million americans back your here are expecting you to do your job everyday. the other thing is that mission first. always. the second, always put those around you, those you serve with, before yourself. if you do that, they will be there for you. i saw that with my friends. , the guys i served with, so many times. it inspired us to do the things we did. i look back on some of the leaders we had. one of them was lieutenant john bostrum.
i mean, we would follow him to the end of the earth on a one-way trip because we always knew that he was looking out for us. he did not care about his career, he did not care about looking good, he cared about accomplishing the mission than doing whatever was in his power to take care of us. now, you have got to be realistic and understand sometimes those things are going to seem at odds. putting the mission first, sometimes the mission is going to risk people's lives. but that is the mission. you have to do everything within your power to bring those people home and that man embodied that. strom, he risked his life to save mine in a bunch wars. he gave his life for us. he is still an inspiration for me to meet what it is to be
a leader to embody those two , principles. [applause] lt. col. crandall: my advice for all of you, you lead from the front. we had commanders who would fly the helicopter up above and tell the guide below what to do. you should be in that lead aircraft so you don't have to transmit. you should be leading our troops the same way. if you are not physically fit, get that way because you're going to be embarrassing yourself when you get some nco that likes to run. my first first sergeant, i was the only officer and i was an aviator. in those days, helicopter pilots were considered a pain because they got paid. and they were here, and those two things were not compatible for some commanders. but my first first sergeant told me we could do this two ways, i could run it and he would do the best he could for me. he was lying. he did not want me to run it.
the second was, i will run it and you can learn. and i said, i think i like that one. [laughter] lt. col. crandall: i survived because of that. he taught me everyday about the standards that we had to have for the unit and for what we had to do. so, i tried to emulate what he expected from me. those of you that are married, you will understand emulating what they expect from you. my wife always expected things from me, and i tried to do that. i had her for 54 years, so you can really have a good life in the military and still have a family. but we need to concentrate on supporting our families.
so, if you are a commander, make sure that your families are considered when you are doing the stuff you are doing. do not overcommit your unit. that is what happens too often when you have a young officer in a leadership position that does not have solid nco's. so pay attention to your nco's, pay attention to your wife or your spouse. that is a little different in today's world. we have the best military we have ever had, and you are going to be part of it. so set your standards accordingly, and listen to your first sergeant. mine taught me a little bit about screwing up and moving up. that is a good concept. if you can stay out of trouble. i was never able to. you can see that you never know what is going to come down the road. you can prepare for combat in
afghanistan today, it may not be there, that may not be what you are going to do. pay attention to what happened in the past and what you can look at in the future. work in your unit. do not try to be the big shot in the battalion when you're in the company. you will find out that will get you in a lot of trouble. the nco's are the key to what we do. i came out of the ranks because an nco told me i was too screwed up. i might make a good corporal someday, and he did not want that on his conscience but i , would make a good second lieutenant. [applause] [laughter] lt. col. crandall: that is enough of that. mr. caldwell: thanks, bruce. let's talk a little bit more about families in our military
careers, because we all know when we come home to that family, they still need you, still love you, and still need you to be that father-husband, wife, brother sister, whatever. how important it is that? and i know i am very blessed with my family. i would like to introduce my wife who is here today, retired onel crandall. thank you for my wife, who is here today. thank you for all of your support. [applause] mr. caldwell: for these young people about to enter the military, how important was your family and your career, and what lessons did you learn about that that you would like to provide about taking care of the family while you are in the military? sgt. morris: while you are sitting up there, right now, you may not be thinking about it, but you will be married, and you
will have families. that is what is great about the united states, we could be in the military and we can have families. families are what we fight for. , are what we stand strong for, to protect. i have been married for about 55 years. my wife was with me when i was a young green beret. actually, a private first class. she is still here today. there have been some tough times, you have to remember that. but you do whatever you can to make sure your family is safe. on solid footing. it is devastating on the families when you leave in the middle of the night and do not come back for six months. you always have to stay prepared. you have got to remember, families is what we are all made up of. when i was platoon sergeant, i
looked at my platoon as my family. almost like my immediate family. that was my responsibility. you remember that platoon. that is your family. you take care of them. you treat them fairly. you gain their trust. you gain their obedience, and you gain their loyalty. but you know, family is why we have a standing army right now. if we did not have families, we would not need to be here right now. none of us. that is why we have a strong military. to protect our families. no other reason. there is no other reason. [applause] sgt. pitts: were taking a breath for a minute. i knew i was going. lt. col. crandall: i am the director.
[laughter] so, when i served, i was single. in so, you know, i only got to observe those with families around me, and you know, the families served right alongside the service members. and, i really think their sacrifices and their burdens is probably greater than in our own because while i am in afghanistan for 12 months, i know what is gone everyday, my family is back home in america or whatever base they are at, worried about what is going on with me. they don't want to just here, no news is good news. for me, everything is good, that is not warm and fuzzy. they are back home taking care of all of the issues we don't have to worry about. home, bills, all of those things. you really have to of appreciation for all of the people behind the people that you lead. motivate them, support them, push them to do what they do. i think it is important when you
think about, as melvin mentioned, your unit becomes your family. i mean, i am really close to a lot of the guys in my unit as i as i am to a lot of my family. family is about blood, caring about other people more than you care about yourself. you are going to get that family. you will be -- it is special. you are not born into it, you get to choose it. it is not just those under your command that you work with but their extended family as well, so i think there is an importance to make sure not only do you create strong so huge and cohesion within the people you directly lead, but fostering an environment where their families get to build a strong support network because when your unit leaves, those families are going to be left behind and have to lean on one another. and that is important, not just when you are in uniform, but when you are out of uniform. it is important also to maintain
those bonds of families you develop in the service because it is equally as important after you leave. i still lean on my brothers, and they lean on me, and we pick up the phone, and it just seems harder because you are separated by distance. you can't just, you know, roll over because we are all in bunk beds, and talk to the person of on the bunk next to me, i have to pick up the phone and call texas orlando, and you can know they are still there for each other in and it is important. things to keep in mind when you are leading soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, and coast guard. [applause] lt. col. crandall: he made one comment i would like to expand on a little bit. command. do not use your command position to command. leadership is not command. leadership is leading and having
people be willing to follow you. and until you develop that, you are not a leader. if you have to use command to get things done, get the hell out because you are not going to be effective, and you will be a pain in the butt for your to deal with for your superiors and your nco's. if you start using command as your only way of getting things done, you will have your senior your butt all over the place, and you will not even know it. don't use command to be your leadership because it does not work. first thing, when you get married there are two words to , learn. actually, three. "yes, dear" and "yes, honey."
because when you walk through that door, you are not the boss. you have to remember when you leave to go down range, the one that stays in the houses taking over, and my wife's favorite expression to the boys, "wait until your daddy gets home." now, i had just gone to vietnam, because it is going to be a long wait. so it was a standard joke in the family. but my wife would tell those three boys, "you wait until your daddy gets home." when i got home, i was not a good father. i was not a good husband. i was in the hospital, and i thought she should come see me every day in and had to drive 75 miles one way. finally, one day she came in and , and i spent five months and she said,
"bruce, i don't want you to take this the wrong way, but when you were in vietnam, you were not a pain in the ass." right away, i figured out i was doing something wrong. it was the expectation she should be coming to see me, but she still a decent the same responsibility she had when i was in vietnam to the family and everything she had to do, and i had become a load for her, and i had to learn not to be. those are the things you learn by having them happen to you. so, i hope none of you have to learn those personally, but the family is the most important part of most of our lives. but the military family, you are right. i still have buddies who come up to me, last year, the 14th of november, we were in washington, d.c. my wingmen and i, we flew 14 and
half hours, we got the medal of honor. we rescued 71 people that lived and they were there, the ones that could be and their families. and i tell you, when you see something awesome, it is to know you had something to do with all those grandkids, and you did not have to pay for them. [laughter] [applause] mr. caldwell: gentlemen, we have time for one more, so we will close with this one. what is the most important lesson you have learned in your military career that helped you get through your career and then in your life after the military? sgt. morris: i only go by one thing. and it is really do what you love what you do and do what you love. if you are going into the military, love it. if you do not love it, you're not going to be too successful. do it you love, love what you
do, love what you do, do it you like. that is the only thing. the path will get hard, it will get rough. sometimes you are going to hate yourself. just tell yourself, "i love what i am doing." you will be successful. i love the military. i was in the military for a long time, but i still feel like i am in the military. i still feel like it. that is why i get out and work pretty hard because i love what i am doing. you know, i love with the military stands for. [applause] mr. caldwell: well done. sgt. pitts: i think the most valuable lesson i try to carry in every part of my life is to look at everything as a team. to realize that no one does anything on their own. i do not remember who said it, but it is amazing what you can accomplish, you can accomplish anything if you do not care who gets the credit. >> reagan.
sgt. pitts: was it ronald reagan? thank you. but i carry that everywhere because i think back on every fight we were ever in, there was never just one guy, one person who carried the day. it was everybody doing their jobs. doing little things. you know, it is all the people who never get recognized that win wars and help us work towards these big accomplishments, and i just try to carry it, i bring it into my house. i look at that, and i am a team with my wife. there are no roles, it is just we have things to accomplish. two little kids to chase around. trying to get them to not burn the house down. [laughter] sgt. pitts: and i bring it to work. just always trying to be a team player. how can i accomplish things? that was something in the military. i was a foreign observer in an infantry unit. i was not just a foreign observer in an infantry unit, i was whatever they needed me to
be. whether that was a humvee mechanic or a medic on the spot, a rifleman. whatever those things were, and always been focused on that, and i try to bring that into every aspect of my life. [applause] lt. col. crandall: how many of you out there are under 25? oh, boy. all right. in 20 years, many of you will be retired from the military. although in 25 years, depending on what year you are, but you will be under 50, and you will have careers.
when you are in the military, use the education you can get in the military and the training of these going and everything, use them as much as you can because the more you develop yourself, the better you are as a leader. so, get education. get the training that is available, and then use it when you get out. i spent three years in california. during prop 13, liked combat better. i went to public works in mesa, arizona, and i spent 15 years there getting the apache built and doing other things that were important to me and to my community. so you will be an asset to your unit by getting all of the education and doing the things that can make you a better officer, a better leader, and, in some cases, you will probably be nco's because in today's army , they are more important than ever. at the top of the rank
when i was there, now we have 8 and 9, and they are the best. a second lieutenant, better understand his intelligence, the guy who is next to him. use your life that way. prepare for the future. get as much education as you can because that makes you a better leader, and i wish you all of the luck in the world. i wish i was your age. i would rather be even younger than you are. [laughter] lt. col. crandall: but that is not going to happen. congratulations to all of you. if any of you ever get into a position where you control helicopters, i would be glad to be a co-pilot. once we leave the ground, i will be the pilot. [applause] sgt. morris: i want to say one thing before we close out and
, and you see it everywhere now in the military. we are all brothers and sisters. so leave no man behind. or woman behind. you got to remember that. you got to remember that. you take care of each other.you. foron't leave our wounded no enemy. we bring them home. we allow the families to have closure. it takes but don't leave your brother on the battlefield. never. that's it. applause] luck wish you the best of and godspeed in your careers. thank you for spending your valuable time with us today.
thanks for the example that you are for all of us and continuing for youruate and service following our military careers as well. take you for being with us. [applause] >> this weekend on american history tv on c-span3, this afternoon just before 5:00 eastern architectural historian harry lewis talks about the construction of the brooklyn bridge, why manhattan needed the bridge and how transportation changed at the >> 20th century. >>it did not put the fairies out of business. they were running at capacity. by the mid-1890's the city of had reached one million
people. >> at 8:00 on lectures in history. interesting thing about country music, it is the music of poor white people. people who are privileged to be white. but also people who are underprivileged. in terms of their class identity. siler on the emerging definitions of whiteness and america. in colonial then sunday afternoon at 4:00 on real america. >> a cautious congress, budget a new year's horizon created evidence that this crusade against societies greatest enemies may be slow, or worse, may level off and fade. this was the climate, the land, and the unfinished task at faced
lyndon johnson in 1966. >> it documents the final month of the year of president lyndon b. johnson, his meeting with mexico's president and a anderative dam project, celebrating the holidays with his family at his texas ranch. on the presidency, william hazel grove, author of meta-president, the secret presidency of theaters wilson. she was woodrow wilson's second wife and she buffered access to the president as he recovered from a massive stroke in 1919. for our complete schedule go to c-span.org. joined us on tuesday, january 3 for live coverage of the opening day of the new congress. watch the official swearing-in of the new and reelected members of the house and senate and the election of the speaker of the house. our live coverage of the days
eastern gives at 7 a.m. on c-span and the c-span.org. or you can list listen to it on the free c-span radio at. a --pp. this holiday weekend here are some of our future programs. we will take a look at farewell speeches and tributes for outgoing members of congress. starting at 12:30 p.m. with senator barbara mikulski of maryland and at 2:00, tributes and speeches for vice president joe biden. at christmas at the white house, join the first lady as she receives the christmas tree. tour the white house and see this year's decorations. make christmas crafting projects with children of families visiting the white house and the tree lighting ceremony on the national mall. at 8:40 p.m. hear from former house speaker john boehner on the donald trump presidency and his time in the congress.
the portrait unveiling of harry reid, democrat of nevada. hillary clinton, joe biden and charles schumer are in attendance. and we will hear from retiring member of congress charles wrangle as congress. we take you to the romeo and juliet wrongful death mock trial. where samuel alito serves as presiding judge. at 6:30, a look at the career of mike pence and his new role as vice president. on c-span and c-span.org and listen on the free c-span radio app. each week, american history tvs american artifacts visits museums, archives and historically