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Fort Carson's 4th Infantry Division Medal of Honor recipients

By: The Gazette
November 8, 2015 Updated: November 8, 2015 at 4:30 am
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Before three soldiers from Fort Carson's 4th Infantry Division earned the Medal of Honor in Afghanistan, the division served in World War I, World War II, Vietnam, Korea and Iraq. Thousands of soldiers from the division have been lauded for their valor over the decades, including these troops who earned the Medal of Honor.

Pvt. Pedro Cano

Born in Mexico, Cano barely spoke English when he deployed to Europe with the 4th Infantry Division in 1944.

On Dec. 2, 1944, Cano did his talking with a rocket launcher. Pinned down by multiple machine-gun nests near Schevenhutte, Germany, Cano took out five German emplacements in a 24-hour period.

Armed with a rocket launcher, Cano made his way through a densely mined area under heavy enemy fire to get within 10 yards of an emplacement. "He quickly fired a rocket into the position, killing the two gunners and five supporting riflemen," his citation reads. "Without hesitating, he fired into a second position, killing two more gunners, and proceeded to assault the position with hand grenades, killing several others and dispersing the rest."

After the war, Cano suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. He died in 1952.

In 2014, President Barack Obama awarded the medal to Cano after the Defense Department reviewed its files looking for unacknowledged heroes.

Staff Sgt. Marcario Garcia

The Mexico-born soldier was a squad leader with the division on Nov. 27, 1944, when his unit was pinned down near Grosshau, Germany. He single-handedly took out two enemy machine-gun emplacements, his medal citation says.

"Although painfully wounded, he refused to be evacuated and, on his own initiative, crawled forward alone until he reached a position near an enemy emplacement. Hurling grenades, he boldly assaulted the position, destroyed the gun, and with his rifle killed three of the enemy who attempted to escape. When he rejoined his company, a second machine gun opened fire and again the intrepid soldier went forward, utterly disregarding his own safety. He stormed the position and destroyed the gun, killed 3 more Germans, and captured 4 prisoners."

He died in 1972.

Lt. Col. George Mabry

Mabry commanded the division's 2nd Battalion of the 8th Infantry Regiment on Nov. 20, 1944, when part of his unit was halted by a minefield during a firefight in Germany's Hurtgen Forest.

The South Carolina native went by himself into the mined area and found a route through, leading the attack into enemy positions.

"Racing up a slope ahead of his men, he found the initial bunker deserted, then pushed on to the second where he was suddenly confronted by nine onrushing enemy," his citation reads. "Using the butt of his rifle, he felled one adversary and bayoneted a second."

Mabry's soldiers made it across 300 yards of "fire swept" terrain, establishing a foothold that led to the capture of the German city of Cologne.

Mabry retired from the Army as a major general. He died in 1990.

First Lt. Bernard Ray

Ray, a New York native, led soldiers through Germany's Hurtgen Forest on Nov. 17, 1944, when his unit was pinned down by enemy fire in front of a concertina wire obstacle.

"Ray reorganized his men and prepared to blow a path through the entanglement," his medal citation reads. Ray grabbed explosives and braved enemy bullets to reach the obstacle.

Wounded by a mortar shell, he still made it.

"Apparently realizing that he would fail in his self-imposed mission unless he completed it in a few moments he made a supremely gallant decision," the citation reads. "With the primer cord still wound about his body and the explosive caps in his pocket, he completed a hasty wiring system and unhesitatingly thrust down on the handle of the charger, destroying himself with the wire barricade in the resulting blast."

He's buried in Farmingdale, N.Y.

Brig. Gen. Theodore Roosevelt Jr.

The son of President Teddy Roosevelt, Brig. Gen. Roosevelt fought in World War I and went back for more in World War II. He was 56 in 1944 when he fought the brass to lead elements of the 4th Infantry Division in the D-Day invasion of France.

On June 6, 1944, he hit the beach with the first wave of soldiers. The enemy had the beach under constant, heavy fire. His soldiers had also landed in the wrong place.

"He repeatedly led groups from the beach, over the seawall and established them inland," his medal citation reads.

Roosevelt died of a heart attack a month after the landing.

Pfc. Leslie Allen Bellrichard

Bellrichard was in a foxhole with four comrades from the division's 1st Battalion of the 8th Infantry Regiment in Kontum province, South Vietnam, on May 20, 1967, when they came under attack. Bellrichard led an effort to repel the enemy, lobbing grenades at the oncoming troops and killing several of them.

The enemy responded with mortar fire, and an exploding round caused him to lose his grip on a grenade.

"Recovering instantly, Pfc. Bellrichard recognized the threat to the lives of his four comrades and threw himself upon the grenade," his citation says.

The town where Bellrichard was born in Wisconsin named a bridge after the 25-year-old who gave his life to save his friends.

Cpl. Thomas W. Bennett

A West Virginia native, Bennett went to war without a weapon. He was a conscientious objector who served as a medic in a noncombat role. From Feb. 9-11, 1969, the unarmed man proved himself to be one of the bravest. His platoon was in the jungle on a reconnaissance mission and encountered heavy opposition. Bennett braved enemy fire repeatedly to rescue wounded troops.

"As enemy fire raged, Bennett ventured through the danger again and again to pull wounded comrades to safety," his medal citation reads.

He was mortally wounded.

A dormitory at West Virginia University was named in his honor.

Spc. Donald W. Evans Jr.

The 23-year-old Californian was a medic with the division's 2nd Battalion of the 12th Infantry Regiment on Jan. 27, 1967, near Tam Tri, Vietnam, when his unit came under heavy attack. Evans left a position of safety to help wounded men.

"Dashing across 100 meters of open area through a withering hail of enemy fire and exploding grenades, he administered lifesaving treatment to one individual and continued to expose himself to the deadly enemy fire as he moved to treat each of the other wounded men and to offer them encouragement," his citation reads.

Wounded himself, Evans helped other wounded soldiers caught in enemy fire. He died in the effort.

Evans Army Community Hospital at Fort Carson is named for the medic.

Sgt. 1st Class Bruce Alan Grandstaff

A 32-year-old platoon sergeant from Spokane, Wash., Grandstaff led an outnumbered unit during a fierce enemy attack in Pleiku province, Vietnam, on May 18, 1967.

Grandstaff led his soldiers through intermittent enemy fire until they were pinned down by an attack on three sides. He rushed through enemy fire to aid men who had been gunned down, pulling one to safety.

Grandstaff then called in artillery to within 50 yards of his soldiers in a bid to beat back the enemy and crawled through enemy fire to mark his position so air support could assist. Seriously wounded in the legs, he called in artillery strikes atop his position as the enemy advanced.

"Now enduring intense pain and bleeding profusely, he crawled to within 10 meters of an enemy machine gun, which had caused many casualties among his men," his medal citation reads.

Grandstaff fought until he died of his wounds. Every member of the platoon was wounded in the fight.

He's buried in Spokane.

First Sgt. David McNerney

Comrades say McNerney was a small man with a legendary temper and a stare that would blister paint.

On March 22, 1967, McNerney's company was sent to find a lost reconnaissance unit in the Ia Drang valley of Vietnam's central highlands, a place of dense jungle, towering hills and large formations of enemy troops.

McNerney repeatedly braved fire to help soldiers who were pinned down and earned his Medal of Honor by marking the unit's position so bombers could hit the enemy that surrounded them.

"In spite of enemy fire he remained exposed until he was certain the position was spotted and then climbed into a tree and tied the identification panel to its highest branches," his citation says.

McNerney died in 2010, and the Texan willed his Medal of Honor to the soldiers of Fort Carson.

Spc. Dwight H. Johnson

He was 20 years old on Jan. 15, 1968, when he jumped out of his 4th Infantry Division tank and into a firefight in Kontum province, Vietnam.

His tank had thrown a track, putting Johnson out of the action as his unit took on a Communist battalion. The Detroit native grabbed his pistol instead of waiting around for repairs and joined the fray, killing several enemy soldiers.

When his pistol was empty, he returned through heavy fire to the tank and grabbed another weapon.

"Specialist Johnson again braved deadly enemy fire to return to the center of the ambush site where he courageously eliminated more of the determined foe," his citation reads.

Johnson survived the battle, but his life went downhill after Vietnam.

The Medal of Honor recipient was killed by a Detroit liquor store clerk during a 1971 robbery.

Pfc. Phill G. McDonald

The 26-year-old West Virginia native was on patrol with the 4th Infantry Division in Kontum province, Vietnam, on June 7, 1968, when his unit was ambushed by a Communist company that pinned the Americans down with heavy machine-gun fire.

McDonald helped two wounded comrades make their way to safety and crawled though heavy fire to destroy a machine gun that endangered their route. Returning to his platoon, McDonald helped provide covering fire as others moved to engage the enemy. He was wounded.

"Despite his painful wounds, Pfc. McDonald recovered the weapon of a wounded machine gunner to provide accurate covering fire for the gunner's evacuation," his citation reads. "He was mortally wounded in this intrepid action."

He's buried in Greensboro, N.C.

Sgt. Ray McKibben

A Georgia native, McKibben was leading a 4th Infantry Division patrol down a trail near Song Mao, Vietnam, when he came under heavy gunfire.

McKibben single-handedly took on an enemy bunker that had his men pinned down before taking a wounded soldier to safety. McKibben later took on two more bunkers, even using an enemy weapon when his rifle was empty.

He was mortally wounded in his attack on a fourth bunker.

"Observing the fire of another bunker impeding the patrol's advance, Sgt. McKibben again single-handedly assaulted the new position," his citation reads.

He's buried in Felton, Ga.

Staff Sgt. Frankie Z. Molnar

A 24-year-old Californian, Molnar had just helped his 4th Infantry Division battalion set up a defensive perimeter in Kontum province, Vietnam, when the enemy opened up with heavy mortar fire.

Despite the shelling, Molnar left his foxhole to check on his men and discovered an enemy attack in process during those rounds.

He gunned down five enemy soldiers, sending the rest of the enemy attackers into retreat. An enemy soldier lobbed a grenade into the American forces.

"Molnar threw himself on it and absorbed the deadly blast to save his comrades," his citation reads.

He's buried in West Virginia.

Sgt. Anund Roark

A 20-year-old from Vallejo, Calif., Roark was leading a patrol to rescue 11 men from a hilltop in Kontum province, Vietnam, when he came under heavy attack. Roark exposed himself to enemy bullets as he maneuvered his troops to counter the enemy advance. Firing his rifle and throwing grenades, Roark helped stop the enemy. But the danger wasn't over. An enemy grenade landed near Roark and his comrades.

"Seeing a grenade land in the midst of his men, Sgt. Roark, with complete disregard for his safety, hurled himself upon the grenade, absorbing its blast with his body," his medal citation reads.

He's buried in San Diego.

Staff Sgt. Elmelindo R. Smith

A 31-year-old platoon sergeant, Smith was on patrol with his 4th Infantry Division unit in Vietnam's central highlands near Cambodia when he was ambushed. The unit was closed in from three sides and facing heavy enemy fire.

The Hawaii native moved through enemy fire to position his troops to fend off the attack. Smith was hit in the shoulder but got back on his feet and gunned down an enemy soldier before continuing to see to his troops. He was hit again in the shoulder and abdomen and was hobbling around on his knees but kept fighting.

"Noting the enemy massing at a weakened point on the perimeter, he crawled into the open and poured deadly fire into the enemy ranks," his medal citation reads. Smith was killed.

He's buried in Hawaii.

Pfc. Louis E. Willett

A New York native, Willett was on patrol with his 4th Infantry Division unit in Kontum province, Vietnam, on Feb. 15, 1967, when the enemy attacked. The large enemy force hit Willett's squad with heavy gunfire, pinning the troops down.

"Despite the deadly fusillade, Pfc. Willett rose to his feet firing rapid bursts from his weapon and moved to a position from which he placed highly effective fire on the enemy," his citation reads.

The 21-year-old was wounded but stayed on his feet and kept firing.

"Moving from position to position, he engaged the enemy at close range until he was mortally wounded."

He's buried in Queens.

The Gazette

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