Special to the Tribune-Star
There’s been information floating around the internet for about five years on a real, American patriot. His name was Ed Freeman. He quit high school before graduation to join the United States Navy and served two years before WWII ended. He then went back to high school to graduate and shortly thereafter joined the United States Army just in time to get into the Korean War. He was interested in flying but could not because he was deemed too tall. And it would be some years before the Army changed its requirements.
Ed Freeman became a pilot and flew fixed wing aircraft for the Army but soon switched to helicopters. It did, however, get him a nickname: Ed “Too Tall” Freeman would rise to the rank of Major. All you have read is only part of the story.
“Too Tall” Freeman was awarded the highest medal you can achieve in any of America’s armed forces. He received the Congressional Medal of Honor. And, if you have forgotten, the Medal of Honor is awarded only to those who have gone far and above the call of duty. And just to show that is not just some kind of fluke, Ed “Too Tall” Freeman also won the Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star with Combat V, a Purple Heart, an Air Medal with three silver oak leaf clusters and one bronze oak leaf cluster.
The real story is Ia Drang, a fire base surrounded by the Viet Cong. They were taking immense fire and many were wounded. One soldier lay near death and probably would have died if he could not be airlifted out to a hospital. The Med Vac units were called off because the fire was too intense and many of the choppers would be lost and the pilots lost as well. Ed Freeman was not a Med Vac pilot. He was flying a Huey lightly armed and he was about to put himself in harm’s way on his own initiative.
He went in to airlift the wounded soldier and, ultimately, saved his life. But that’s not the end of it. This 6’4” tall pilot, a member of the 229th Assault Helicopter Battalion, First Cav., decided to go back in and get other people out and carry in with him ammunition, water, medical supplies, and just about anything else he could carry in his Huey the men on the ground needed.
Freeman would not do this just one or two times, but he braved withering fire 13 more times. He did all of this while being wounded himself. His commanding officer would get around to putting him in for the Medal of Honor, but it would not work.
A typical military snafu … you had to recommend someone for a Medal of Honor in a two-year time frame. The recommendation was put in too late and “Too Tall” Freeman did not receive it when he should have. It would be some time later when he was given the Medal by President George W. Bush. Quite a lengthy period after the Vietnam War was finished.
Ed W. Freeman would stay in the United States Army from 1946 to 1967. He would rise through the ranks and, ultimately, become a major. Total service time of 22 years.
I believe there are many other men we don’t know of, and maybe never heard of, who are the real patriots in these United States … men who do not seek awards but get them through their actions … men who do not seek fame because of their actions, but do it because it’s the right thing to do.
Major Freeman died of Parkinson’s disease in Idaho. He is interred at the Idaho State Veteran’s Cemetery in Boise. Ed Freeman was truly a patriot. He did not call himself a patriot for political gain or fame, but by doing exceptional work above and beyond the call of duty, he became a patriot and was awarded the nation’s highest military honor.
We write about this true hero so you’ll know the difference between what is real and what is not.
Ronn Mott, a longtime radio personality in Terre Haute, writes commentaries for the Tribune-Star. His pieces are published online Tuesday and Thursday on Tribstar.com, and in the print and online editions on Saturday.