By Army News ServiceNovember 15, 2007
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Nov. 15, 2007) -- The Army recognized his determination to continue fighting in a flak-riddled Apache helicopter and Sunday posthumously awarded Army Chief Warrant Officer 4 Keith Yoakum the Distinguished Service Cross.
CWO4 Yoakum became just the eighth soldier since Vietnam to earn the award, the military's second-highest behind the Medal of Honor.
CWO4 Yoakum's widow, Kelly, and his two daughters, along with his parents and his two brothers and sister, were among 300 people who attended the awards ceremony on Veterans Day at Gibbel Park in Hemet, Calif. His company commander, Capt. Lee Robinson, flew in from Iraq for the ceremony.
Capt. Robinson, of the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, called CWO4 Yoakum a "force for good" who infused in his comrades and the young Soldiers he supervised "the desire to be the best," reported the Press-Enterprise newspaper in Hemet.
The Distinguished Service Cross was awarded for an engagement near Baghdad Feb.2. Insurgents had dug gun positions into irrigation canals and ditches. From these concealed positions, the insurgents fired automatic weapons and 12 mm or 14 mm anti-aircraft rounds on CWO4 Yoakum's Apache and another helicopter.
Even though his Apache had been hit in the fuselage and was losing the hydraulics that kept it flying, CWO4 Yoakum led the two-helicopter patrol, giving directions over the radio to the other Apache crew as they engaged the enemy.
CWO4 Yoakum put his Apache into a climb and told the other helicopter pilot that he was going to try firing rockets at the insurgent gun positions. But then his radio went silent. The other aviators later spotted his burning helicopter on the ground.
CWO4 Yoakum had logged more than 300 flight hours in Iraq as part of the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade.
His mother, Ann Yoakum, 71, accepted the Distinguished Service Cross Sunday on behalf of her late son from Brig. Gen. Rick Rife, director of program analysis and evaluation, Office of the Army's Deputy Chief of Staff, G-8.
Brig. Gen. Rife also presented a Distinguished Service Cross to CWO4 Yoakum's widow, Kelly Yoakum.
(Information from a story by Caitlin M. Kelly in the Hemet Press-Enterprise contributed to this article.)