Chief Master Sgt. Jason Lamoureux, 45th Space Wing command chief, coins Medal of Honor recipient retired U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Melvin Morris at Patrick AFB, Fla., Jan. 31, 2017. Lamoureux thanked him for his bravery, courage and inspirational message to our service members on the power of the human spirit. (U.S. Air Force photo by Phil Sunkel)

Veterans Voice: Melvin Morris

Army Staff Sergeant Melvin Morris was born in Okmulgee, Oklahoma to an African-American family. His dad was a carpenter, but work was scarce in the area, so Melvin spent much of his youth living with his grandparents on a small farm “so he would have enough to eat”.

As soon as he was old enough, he joined the Oklahoma National Guard. He stated that his primary reason for doing so was to “stay out of trouble”. He spent one year in the National Guard before transferring to the regular Army, where he completed Airborne training.

While he was stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, John F. Kennedy visited the base to review the newly founded “special forces” called the “Green Berets”. This visit added to the glamour of this elite division, and Melvin soon volunteered for Green Beret training and became an early member of the outfit. He is quoted as saying, “it allowed a man to stick out his chest and hold his head high”.

Melvin served two tours of duty in Vietnam with the Green Berets as a Staff Sergeant and “special forces” field commander. He was leading a 5-man team from Company D, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Special Forces.

In September of 1969, his and another 5-man Green Beret unit came across an extensive enemy mine field near Chi Lang, Vietnam. As they were negotiating the field, they came under heavy gunfire from the enemy. 

By field telephone, Melvin learned that the other unit commander, operating on the other side of the mine field had been killed near an enemy machine gun bunker. Melvin organized his men and they began working their way toward the other small unit. On the way, Melvin and two others split off to recover the body of the other commander.

They were quickly spotted and the enemy concentrated their firing at the three men, wounding two. Melvin assisted both of them back to join the others, then continued his mission to recover the commander’s body. 

He came under intense enemy fire, but miraculously was not hit and, using grenades, destroyed a total of four machine gun emplacements. He recovered the body and began carrying it back to the location of the now-combined (but small) Green Beret unit. Melvin was struck and wounded three times while carrying the body.

He then remembered that he had left behind classified information, so, despite his wounds, returned under enemy fire to rescue the papers and return. On the way the enemy fire became so intense that he was pinned down behind a tree for two hours. During that time he telephoned for help, and the Navy sent a helicopter to drop explosives, giving him enough cover to escape. His Green Beret unit had inflicted heavy casualties on the enemy and were able to safely retreat. Melvin was sent to an Army Hospital in Japan where he spent 3 months recovering from his wounds.

First Sergeant Melvin Morris retired from active duty in 1985 and currently resides in Florida.

Below is a partial listing of medals he received: Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, Purple Heart with oak leaf cluster

Special Forces Tab, Bronze Star with oak leaf cluster, Vietnam Service Medal, Combat Infantry Badge, Expert Marksmanship Badge with rifle bar, Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross w/bronze star.

 

Sgt. Morris has received a number of honors and is considered an example to members of United States Special Forces.

 
 

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