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Medal of Honor recipient Drew Dix to children: Find a way to make a difference

Medal of Honor recipient Drew Dix speaks to Marines at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina on Jan. 20, 2015.

SCOTT A. ACHTEMEIER/U.S. MARINE CORPS

By PETER ROPER | The Pueblo Chieftain, Colo. | Published: May 15, 2018

PUEBLO, Colo. (Tribune News Service) — It’s been 50 years since Army Sgt. Drew Dix’s bravery and leadership on a battlefield in Vietnam resulted in President Lyndon Johnson putting the Medal of Honor around his neck.

Dix, now gray-headed and 73 but very fit, was back in his hometown Monday to do something he enjoys — speaking to young people at a series of Pueblo events.

“The Medal of Honor doesn’t get you many privileges,” Dix told an audience of elementary students from La Junta, Las Animas and Fowler who had come to the Center for American Values to be recognized for doing good with local veterans and other accomplishments.

“But it does give me the chance to talk to young people like you about the values of hard work and responsibility,” he said. “Those of us who wear the medal didn’t do anything to be recognized. We just saw an opportunity to make a difference and we acted on it.”

In Dix’s case, he was a Green Beret team leader who led a small group of South Vietnamese soldiers and two Navy SEALS into the town of Chau Doc on Jan. 31, 1968, to rescue American civilians trapped in a city overrun by Viet Cong troops.

The young people at the center Monday watched a video about Dix’s actions that day, how he found and rescued American nurse Maggie O’Brien and other civilians. What he didn’t talk about was having to kill numerous VC troops in close combat to do it.

On the video, Dix did say that as his team made progress into the city, he had a feeling the momentum was turning his way because more South Vietnamese troops were following behind him, joining the impromptu attack to retake the town.

It took several days of fighting, but Dix and South Vietnamese troops eventually took the city back from the enemy.

His message Monday was to the youngest people in the room and it was straight to the point.

“Whatever you do in your life, good or bad, you will build on that experience,” he warned. “You can always choose to help others and they will help you in turn. That’s how it is in a family and that’s what we are as a nation.”

Dix said he joined the Army at 17 but people can do important, courageous things both in the service and out.

“You are responsible for your actions, but the world doesn’t turn around you,” he said. “So it’s important that you find something bigger than yourself to work for, a way for you to make a difference.”

He pointed to the three words that form the creed for the center: honor, integrity and patriotism.

“Never lie,” he told the young people. “Believe in what you are doing and saying. And be proud of a nation that lets you live any way you choose because men and women were willing to fight and die to protect that freedom.”

Dix is the only living member of the four Puebloans who have received the Medal of Honor. The others are William Crawford (World War II), Carl Sitter (Korea), and Raymond “Jerry” Murphy (Korea).

proper@chieftain.com

©2018 The Pueblo Chieftain (Pueblo, Colo.)
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