BAGHDAD - Presented by the President of the United States, the Medal of Honor is the highest and most distinguished award given to U.S. servicemembers for "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty."
Because of the level of criteria in a Medal of Honor citation, the award is often presented to servicemembers posthumously.
Two Vietnam War veterans who survived combat and were awarded Medals of Honor visited Soldiers serving with the 2nd Heavy "Dagger" Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Multi-National Division - Baghdad, at Warrior Chapel on Camp Liberty, April 14.
The two veterans spoke to the Soldiers about keeping morale high, maintaining a sense of urgency and took the opportunity to answer questions.
"We try to visit Soldiers here and in Afghanistan every April," said Command Sgt. Maj. (retired) Gary Littrell, who spent four days on a hill in Vietnam fighting enemy mortar and small arms fire. "It's very important that we visit the men and women who are preserving the same freedom we preserved many years ago."
Littrell and Col. (retired) Robert Howard, who also earned the Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star and eight Purple Hearts for his actions in Vietnam, gave words of encouragement and advice during their visit.
"Many of you have family at home and because of the technology today, keep them informed and tell them how are doing," said Howard. "This is good for everyone's morale and it will help you focus on the mission."
The two took turns speaking to the troops, adding that accomplishment of the mission is what motivates leaders to get the job done.
"After reading my citation, I felt that I did deserve the Medal of Honor," said Littrell. "At the time, all I was thinking was I was a noncommissioned officer in the United States Army with a job to do and Soldiers to take care of."
Littrell continued by saying to the Soldiers that if they were placed in the same predicament, that they had the same level of integrity and courage to put total effort into the fight, no matter how long it took.
"You are fine young men and women who have outstanding tools and leadership," he said to the Soldiers. "We are behind you all the way and as long as we are able to make the trip, we will continue to visit the servicemembers in Iraq and Afghanistan."
When the time came for Soldiers to ask the veterans questions, Staff Sgt. Andres Redondo, a native of Overland Park, Kan., who serves with the 5th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd HBCT, asked the gentlemen how they stayed motivated and motivated their Soldiers during the time they spent thousands of miles away from their families.
"We had no choice but to stay motivated as leaders," said Howard. "As for our Soldiers, we reminded them that God and country came before our needs."
Littrell added that today's Army has a lot more recourses in quality of life, weapons systems and medical care to reach the needs of Soldiers.
Greenville, N.C. native Command Sgt. Maj. Donald Battle, the brigade's senior enlisted advisor, who introduced the Soldiers' honorable guests, said he was thankful for them to share their knowledge and support with the Dagger Soldiers.
"It's because of Americans like Col. Howard and Command Sgt. Maj. Littrell that we can still serve in America's Army," said Battle. "They are heroes and we owe them great respect and thanks for coming to visit us."