Medal of Honor winner to speak at Veterans Day observance in De Smet

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

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Michael J. Fitzmaurice, who in 1973 was awarded the Medal of Honor, the United States military’s highest decoration, will be honored at the De Smet Veterans Day program, at 10:30 a.m. Nov. 11 in the National Guard Armory.

 

 On March 23, 1971, Fitzmaurice, a 1969 graduate of Iroquois High School, was an Army soldier serving in the 17th Calvary Regiment, 101st Airborne Division in Khe Sanh, Republic of Vietnam.

 

During a firefight that day, Fitzmaurice and three fellow soldiers were occupying a bunker when the North Vietnamese threw three explosive charges into it. Fitzmaurice threw two of the charges out of the bunker, and then threw his flak vest and body over the third to protect the other soldiers.

 

 Although he was suffering from serious injuries and partial blindness, he charged out of the bunker and engaged the enemy until his rifle was damaged by a hand grenade.  He then overcame a North Vietnamese sapper in hand-to-hand combat, acquired the sapper’s rifle and continued to fight, refusing medical evacuation.

 

Fitzmaurice received an honorable discharge from the Army on April 7, 1972, and in November 1973, President Richard Nixon awarded him the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions. Among the many other awards and decorations Fitzmaurice received for his service in Vietnam are the Purple Heart, Vietnam Service Medal with Bronze Star, Vietnam Campaign Medal and Combat Infantryman Badge.

 

Donna Palmlund

Staff Writer

The De Smet News

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