Vietnam hero laments dwindling number of honorees

- You might think a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient would be used to being called a hero. 

"I'm not a hero, I'm a warrior. I love the title ’warrior.’ I don't like the title ‘hero,’" insisted Gary Littrell of St Pete Beach. 

Back in 1970, Littrell and the South Vietnamese rangers he was advising crippled a much larger enemy force and held a key hill in Vietnam for four days and nights. Hundreds died on both sides. 

"It was a no-win situation. It was just mass annihilation," he recalled. 

Littrell was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Richard Nixon in 1973. He has been an active member of the Medal of Honor Society for many years.

Surviving recipients traveled to New York and Washington last week for National Medal of Honor Day, but their numbers have dwindled. "When I joined there were 360," said Littrell. "Now we're down to 71. We're getting old."

While U.S. troops have fought long and hard, fewer Medals of Honor have been awarded. Just two were awarded for actions in Iraq, both posthumously, and 14 in Afghanistan. Eleven of those are surviving. 

Littrell hopes that some lesser medals awarded in those wars will be reviewed and Medals of Honor awarded. "If not, we're going to have 11 from Afghanistan, and that number is just too small," he said.   

In October 2019, the Medal of Honor Society plans to hold its national convention in Tampa and Clearwater Beach. Dozens of recipients will travel here, whether you call them heroes or warriors. 

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