Local Medal of Honor recipient gets memorial bench this Memorial Day

A Piqua-born Vietnam War hero is getting a memorial bench in Fort Wayne, Ind. this Memorial Day. Airman William H. Pitsenbarger, the subject of of the movie “The Last Full Measure,” was the first airman to receive the Medal of Honor. He received it 35 years after his death.

A ceremony on Memorial Day at 1:30 p.m. at the Veterans National Memorial Shrine and Museum will honor Pitsenbarger’s sacrifice. Pitsenbarger volunteered to descend from a helicopter into a fight to help wounded soldiers. He also fought back and delivered ammunition to the soldiers under seige. After he suffered three wounds, he refused to ascend to the helicopter and eventually suffered a mortal wound.

His sacrifice was chronicled in the movie “The Last Full Measure,” which opened in theaters nationwide on Jan. 23 of this year.

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Pitsenbarger’s uniform and an exhibit about his life are on display in the Southeast Asia War Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.

Pitsenbarger, according to the museum, was born in 1944 in Piqua. He wanted to quit high school and join the U.S. Army Special Forces Green Berets, but his parents convinced him to stay in school. He graduated high school in 1962 and joined the Air Force.

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After basic training, he volunteered for pararescue work, which involved heavier, more intense training such as parachute work, survival school, rescue and survival medical courses and the U.S. Navy’s scuba diving school.

Pitsenbarger arrived in Vietnam in August 1965, where he completed more than 250 missions, including one where he hung from a helicopter cable to rescue a wounded South Vietnamese soldier from a burning minefield.

He died on April 11, 1966 after saving the lives of nine other soldiers.

There is a statue of Pitsenbarger in his hometown of Piqua.

The ceremony in Fort Wayne will feature a ride-in by the Warrior Breed motorcycle club, a description of his heroics and a dedication of the bench, a release said.

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