BAGHDAD - With only 97 Medal of Honor holders living, meeting a recipient of the nation's highest military decoration is not something that happens every day.
Recently, Soldiers from the 225th Engineer Brigade, Multi-National Division - Baghdad, got the chance to meet two living heroes, retired Col. Robert Howard and retired Command Sgt. Maj. Gary Littrell, April 15 during their visit to Camp Liberty. The veterans received the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry and fearlessness in action while risking their lives during the Vietnam War.
Howard and Littrell retired with 36 and 24 years of service respectfully, but their Army service didn't stop there. Now on their sixth visit to Iraq, the best friend duo said they feel "called" to visit troops and show their support for what they call the most professional Soldiers in the history of the American Armed Forces.
"I have a great appreciation for Americans serving this great country. It's our privilege to be here with you," said Howard. "You are very privileged to have the greatest leaders that we've had in our services, especially in the United States Army in the past 235 years, because of your level of professionalism."
"But it's more than professionalism," he continued, "its dedication and love of your country or you wouldn't be here. I applaud you."
Among the Soldiers meeting the American heroes was a fellow Soldier drafted during Vietnam, Chief Warrant Officer 4 Wilson Quebedeaux of Marksville, La., 225th Engineer Brigade. Quebedeaux has served in Desert Storm, Operation Enduring Freedom and now Operation Iraqi Freedom.
"It is always an honor to be able to visit with any retired veteran and a distinguished Medal of Honor recipient; few people ever get to do this because most that have received this medal have died for their heroic actions and their family received the medal in their honor," Quebedeaux explained. "Any time you have an opportunity to talk to veterans of foreign war it always brings back memories when you were there as well."
More than 200 Soldiers filled the small Engineer Chapel at Camp Liberty here to listen to the living legends give advice, encouragement and more than anything, just to be in the presence of two Americans having displayed acts of the highest caliber of courage in defense of their nation and fellow Soldiers.
"I was humbled and honored to meet true American heroes," said Master Sgt. Lisa Bates, of Mena, Ark. "It was a privilege to get to meet them and something I will always remember. It's not every day you get to meet Soldiers like that."