Madison County Honors Veteran Heroes
September 25, 2009
Four distinguished veterans will join the Madison County Hall of Heroes this year.
The 2009 induction ceremony, by invitation only, is Nov. 10 at 6 p.m. at the Von Braun Center north hall. The inductees include retired Lt. Gen. Frank Lubitti, retired Maj. Robert Karwoski, veteran Leonard Robinson and retired Master Sgt. Arvil Burchfield.
"The criteria for induction is a person must have received an award for valor or heroism," Steve Ray, first vice president of the Madison County Military Heritage Commission, said.
The valor awards cited can involve combat or other heroic actions.
Ray provided the following information on this year's honorees.
The retired lieutenant general is a native of Huntington, Long Island, N.Y. Following graduation from the Citadel, he entered the Marine Corps Officer Candidate Program in August 1966 and received his commission as second lieutenant in October of that year. After serving for 35 years on active duty, Libutti retired from the Marine Corps. He and his wife, a retired Navy captain, reside in Huntsville. Libutti serves on the board of directors of several local companies and is active in community veteran's events and programs.
Libutti's exploits during Operation Buffalo, which took place near Con Thien, Republic of Vietnam from July 1-14, 1967, are chronicled in a book titled "Operation Buffalo," written by Keith W. Nolan. One incident worthy of mention that occurred during the engagement in which he received the Silver Star Medal is that on two separate occasions enemy hand grenades were thrown at him, bouncing off him, failing to explode.
On July 2, 1967, Libutti, then a second lieutenant, distinguished himself while serving as a platoon commander with the Marine Corps in the Republic of Vietnam. On that date, he was given the mission of reinforcing a beleaguered Marine company, which had sustained heavy casualties and was in danger of being overrun by a numerically superior North Vietnamese Army force.
Upon arrival, Libutti's platoon assumed the point position, and while maneuvering forward, came under enemy small arms and automatic weapons fire. As his unit approached the besieged unit, the enemy commenced a vicious artillery and mortar attack. Although he was wounded during the barrage, Libutti ignored his painful injuries and assisted in placing casualties aboard tanks for evacuation. As the intensity of the attack increased, he sustained a second wound; however, he steadfastly continued to assist the wounded.
While his unit maneuvered to the landing zone, Libutti was wounded a third time. Disregarding his own safety, he continued to lead his platoon and only after he was assured that all casualties had received medical treatment and were evacuated did he submit to medical evacuation. For his courage, superb leadership and selfless devotion to duty at great personal risk, Libutti received the Silver Star Medal for conspicuous gallantry and three awards of the Purple Heart Medal for wounds received in action.
The retired Air Force major was born in Jersey City, N.J. Karwoski began his military career after receiving his commission through the Officer Training School, Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. He served on active duty for 22 and a half years and following retirement, worked in the aerospace industry. He and his wife live in Madison.
On Feb. 7, 1970, Karwoski distinguished himself while serving as a navigator on an AC-130 Gunship while flying a night reconnaissance mission against the Ho Chi Minh trail. On that date, his aircraft was engaged by extremely intense and accurate enemy anti-aircraft fire by which he was wounded. In spite of the heavy enemy fire, his aircraft destroyed 11 enemy supply vehicles containing a large amount of supplies and munitions. For his actions, Karwoski received the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Purple Heart Medal for wounds received in action.
On Dec. 30, 1972, Karowski again distinguished himself, this time while serving as a radar navigator aboard a B-52 bomber aircraft flying a mission over North Vietnam. His quick reaction and accurate response to hostile enemy surface-to-air missile launches against his aircraft enabled his crew to deliver their ordnance directly on the enemy target. For his superb airmanship on that date, Karwoski received the Distinguished Flying Cross.
This Guthrie, Okla., native is an Army veteran who entered military service in the summer of 1967. He and his wife were married in March 2009 and live in Huntsville. Leonard is employed as an architect with the firm Goodwyn, Mills and Caywood and as a hobby, he enjoys photography.
On Sept. 12, 1968, Robinson distinguished himself in ground combat while serving in the Republic of Vietnam. During a helicopter borne assault, his platoon sergeant was felled when his company encountered heavy enemy resistance. Sgt. Robinson braved the enemy fire and despite being severely wounded, retrieved the body of his fallen comrade. For his heroic actions on that date, Robinson received the Bronze Star Medal for Valor and the Purple Heart Medal for wounds received in action.
On April 28, 1969, Robinson again distinguished himself by heroic action while serving as a squad leader in the A Shau Valley, Republic of Vietnam. Robinson moved his squad through intense enemy fire in order to flank and assault North Vietnamese Army positions. Although wounded, he refused medical evacuation and moved about his men, encouraging them and directing their fire. During the course of the battle, Robinson's squad overran the fortified enemy position and the enemy force was completely routed. For his actions on that date, Robinson received the Bronze Star Medal for Valor and the Purple Heart Medal for wounds received in action.
Burchfield is a retired master sergeant and a native of Benton, Tenn. He entered military service in 1957 and served 28 years on active duty, which included serving as an ROTC instructor at Tennessee-Chattanooga. After retiring from the Army, Burchfield taught Junior ROTC at high schools in Florida and Georgia.
On Feb. 24, 1971, Burchfield distinguished himself by heroic action while serving in the Republic of Vietnam. On that date, he assaulted a North Vietnamese Army stronghold to save four wounded Soldiers who lay exposed to enemy fire. In spite of torrid enemy small arms and automatic weapons fire, Burchfield and his force assaulted the enemy position and although wounded during his assault, Burchfield succeeded in destroying the enemy positions and retrieved the four wounded men. For his heroic actions, Burchfield received the Bronze Star Medal for Valor and the Purple Heart Medal for wounds received in action.