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Medal of Honor candidate Sgt. 1st Class Melvin Morris, was born in Okmulgee, Okla., Jan. 7, 1942. Morris entered the Oklahoma Army National Guard in 1959 and later requested to join the active Army. He became one of the first soldiers to don the "green beret" at the command of President John F. Kennedy, Fort Bragg, N.C., in 1961. Morris volunteered twice for deployments to Vietnam. Then-Staff Sgt. Morris is being recognized for his valorous actions on Sept. 17, 1969, while commanding the 3rd Company, 3rd Battalion of the IV Mobile Strike Force near Chi Lang, Vietnam. The 1st and 3rd battalions of the IV Mobile Strike Force were engaged in a search and clear operation, some five kilometers north and east of Chi Lang, in the IV Corps Tactical Zone. Sister companies of his battalion had encountered an extensive enemy mine field and were subsequently engaged by a hostile force. Morris learned that a fellow team commander had been killed and had fallen near an enemy bunker. Immediately reorganizing the strike forces into an effective assault posture, he advanced them and then moved out with two men to recover the body. Observing the maneuver, the hostile force concentrated their fire and wounded both men accompanying Morris. After he assisted the two back to the lines of the main force, he again charged into the hail of fire to approach the nearest enemy bunker, throwing grenades into it. As his men laid a base of suppressive fire, he neared the position of the team leader's body. When a machine gun emplacement directed its strafing fusillade at him, he annihilated the position with hand grenades and continued his assault, eliminating three additional bunkers. Driving the enemy from the entrenchment nearest the fallen team leader, he retrieved his comrade and started to his troop's position. As he neared the strike force he was wounded three times as he ran back toward friendly lines with the American casualties, but did not stop until he reached safety. From the beginning of the encounter, until he was medically evacuated, Morris reacted to each situation with a professionalism, and single-minded determination possessed by few men. Ignoring his personal safety repeatedly, on no less than three occasions he faced insurmountable odds, and finally overcame them. His ability to direct and lead indigenous soldiers into what was for some, certain death has rarely been equaled. Morris retired at Fort Hood, Texas, in May 1985. He and his wife, Mary, currently reside in Cocoa, Fla. They have been married for 51 years.

Washington, D.C. (September 1, 2023): Some of the most heroic displays of courage and selfless sacrifice are done by the most ordinary people. Take Army Sergeant 2st Class Melvin Morris, pictured above (left) with a friend in Vietnam, whose decoration for bravery was recently upgraded to the Medal of Honor for his actions saving a fallen comrade on September 17, 1969.

The son of a handyman, Morris was raised in rural Oklahoma and enjoyed the simple life of fishing, hunting, and roaming the outdoors. Although there were few black folks in the Army National Guard,  Morris decided to join right out of high school in 1959. He requested airborne training and applied for the newly formed Special Forces where he earned the Green Beret.

As Commander of a Strike Force with the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), Morris and his unit were on a search and destroy mission in the Mekong Delta when they were ambushed by a superior Viet Cong force. The team’s commander was killed and Sergeant Morris led a three-person element to recover his body. With both of his teammates wounded, Sgt. Morris charged forward through blistering fire to attack a series of bunkers with hand grenades until he reached his fallen leader. After repulsing multiple enemy attacks, Morris was wounded three times on the arduous trek back to friendly lines.

Staff Sergeant Morris’ Medal Of Honor cited his “extraordinary heroism and selflessness above and beyond the call of duty that is in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.”

Forty-four years later, the nation celebrates yet another example of extraordinary acts of bravery committed by the most ordinary of fellows.