Office of Rep. Derek Kilmer announcement.
On Feb. 14, 2023, U.S. Representatives Derek Kilmer (WA-06) and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05) reintroduced bipartisan legislation to award Dustoff crews of the Vietnam War with the Congressional Gold Medal. Dustoff crewmembers – helicopter air ambulance pilots, crew chiefs, and medics – performed aeromedical evacuation of over 900,000 U.S., Vietnamese, and allied forces from May 1962 to March 1973.
“Years after the end of the Vietnam War, too many Vietnam veterans have not been sufficiently recognized for their service and sacrifice. That remains true for the members of the Dustoff crews – who valiantly rescued so many,” said Rep. Kilmer. “Awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to the Dustoff crews of the Vietnam War will be an important step toward recognizing the pivotal role that these service members played in saving lives and serving their country proudly. I’ll keep pushing to ensure we demonstrate our appreciation on behalf of a grateful nation.”
“During the Vietnam War, millions of Americans left home to fight in muddy trenches and jungles halfway around the world. Many made the ultimate sacrifice. Others returned home just to be ostracized and ridiculed. Some were never recognized for their service at all,” said Rep. Rodgers. “That’s exactly what happened to the Dustoff crewmembers who risked their lives to save nearly one million others. They were some of the very best, and their heroism deserves to be recognized.”
Dustoff crews in Vietnam often faced foul weather, mountainous terrain, and intense enemy fire – with crewmembers facing a one-in-three chance of being wounded or killed. One Dustoff unit, the 54th Medical Detachment, typified the heroism of Dustoff crews. Over ten months, 40 soldiers equipped with only three helicopters evacuated 21,435 patients on 8,644 missions over 4,832 hours, earning 78 valor awards.
Since the American Revolution, Congress has commissioned gold medals as its highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions. Congress has never awarded the Congressional Gold Medal to any veteran of the Vietnam War. The Dustoff Crews of the Vietnam War Congressional Gold Medal Act would collectively award a single Congressional Gold Medal to Dustoff crewmembers.