ARLINGTON, TX – (November 5, 2021)– The National Medal of Honor Museum Foundation (NMOHMF) welcomed a gift of rare historical objects related to Medal of Honor recipient U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sergeant Richard L. Etchberger. Etchberger’s two sons – Cory and Richard Jr. – made this gift to the Museum on behalf of the family. This remarkable collection includes Etchberger’s watch and dog tags that he was wearing at the time of his Medal of Honor action, his posthumous Medal of Honor certificate signed by President Barack Obama, a bolt from Lima Site 85, his Air Force Cross (later upgraded to a Medal of Honor), his Purple Heart, letters, telegrams, and a host of other personal artifacts.
“The NMOHMF is honored to receive these priceless artifacts and military awards from the family of Medal of Honor recipient Chief Master Sgt. Richard L. Etchberger. We are thankful for the incredible generosity of his family and privileged to be able to display these treasures, preserving Etchberger’s story of bravery and service for future generations,” said Chris Cassidy, NMOHMF President and CEO.
Chief Master Sgt. Etchberger is one of 19 members of the U.S. Air Force to have earned the Medal of Honor, our nation’s highest award for valor in combat. At the Battle of Lima Site 85 in Laos on March 11, 1968, Chief Master Sgt. Etchberger singlehandedly fought off an attack by North Vietnamese Army forces on a top-secret enemy site that left all his comrades either dead or severely wounded. He did so even though he had very limited combat training and was the only remaining soldier capable of fighting.
After the rescue aircraft arrived, Chief Master Sgt. Etchberger loaded three wounded comrades into evacuation slings while under heavy enemy fire. He made sure all others were loaded onto the helicopter before climbing into an evacuation sling himself. Aboard the helicopter, Etchberger was struck by an enemy bullet and died shortly thereafter.
Due to the sensitive nature of Lima Site 85, Etchberger was first awarded an Air Force Cross in secret. After it was declassified in 1998, the Department of Defense reviewed Richard Etchberger’s action, and his Air Force Cross was upgraded to the Medal of Honor. President Barack Obama presented the Medal of Honor to his two sons on September 21, 2010, in a White House ceremony.
“Our father’s story was kept secret for more than 40 years, and our goal was that by contributing this collection to the National Medal of Honor Museum, the Etchberger family could help share his legacy of leadership, integrity, service before self, and sacrifice. By making a place for his story in the future Museum, the public will have the opportunity to learn more about those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in their service to their nation,” said Cory and Richard Etchberger Jr. “Our father was an ordinary man with tremendous feelings of loyalty to his country; one who thought that his contributions to his mission would help to bring peace and freedom. He believed in the mission, honored his family, his service family, and country, and gave his life to protect the freedom he knew.”
The National Medal of Honor Museum is always on the lookout for historical artifacts to add to its collection. If you have items that you would wish to donate to the museum, please contact our curator, Mr. Greg Waters at firstname.lastname@example.org.