By David Freeman
We all had additional duties to perform when not flying. First Lieutenant Chris Seidor had an especially challenging job. He was the Awards and Decorations officer, as well as the unit historian. It was his job to write up acts of bravery and submit recommendations for medals and other awards. He had a rough time of it.
By the time I arrived in country in October, 1971, Chris had already become cynical about the whole Awards and Decorations process. Most of the acts of bravery done by the Dustoff crews were considered insignificant by our chain of command. Very few of the award recommendations were approved. This was somewhat demoralizing, since we knew of a number of instances where a slick driver got a DFC or a Silver Star for pulling a hot medevac. That same type of mission by one of us was considered routine. I’m not slamming the slick drivers, because their medals were well-deserved. It’s just that we wanted some, too.
Chris talked to me one night about his discouragement. “You know, David,” he said, “I don’t know why I do this.” He had been reading me a narrative that he had written describing a particularly hairy medevac that Steve Hamman and his crew had made a few days earlier. “I use all the right words, like ‘above and beyond the call of duty,’ and ‘without regard for his own safety,’ and they’re all true, but they must sound like so much BS to the colonels and generals that have to approve them. Don’t those guys know what we go through out here?”
“I don’t know, Chris,” I answered. “Why is it that the guys in the aviation units get medals, and we don’t?”
“Because their commanders are aviators,” he said. “They know what it’s like to fly into an LZ with bullets and rockets flying all around you. Our commanders spend their time running hospitals and motor pools.”
He flipped through a few pages that he tossed to me. “Look at this,” he said. “The 57th has an outstanding record. We even have a Medal of Honor winner to our credit. The 82nd (our sister unit at the time) has one, too.”
I knew about Major Patrick Brady. “Major Brady was our guy. Who in the 82nd got a Medal of Honor?” I asked.
“Fellow name of Novosel,” Chris answered. “Listen to this.” I listened intently, as Chris read the details of how Chief Warrant Officer Michael Novosel had flown into an LZ, had his crewmembers shot up while trying to load patients, had left his helicopter, been wounded himself, and after he was wounded, rounded up his own crew and various other wounded soldiers, loaded them into the helicopter, then climbed back into the pilot’s seat and flown them to safety. All the while bullets were flying around him and people were being killed left and right.
I was impressed. “I couldn’t see myself doing anything like that,” I said.
“Me, either,” Chris responded, “but you never know what you’ll do until you’re in a situation.”
“I guess not,” I agreed. We both felt honored to be part of such a group that had included such men as Pat Brady and Michael Novosel. Looking at other stories in the unit histories, I was even more impressed. But, as far as I was concerned, the guys I flew with every day were heroes in their own right. They just didn’t get many medals.