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May 16, 1968: Donald Ballard Receives the Medal of Honor

Image: Wikimedia Commons

His is a story of true American heroism. Donald Ballard entered into a life of service when he joined the Navy at age of 20. Having trained to become a dentist, Ballard was eventually recruited to be a Marine Corpsman which landed him on the frontlines of the Vietnam War. As a Corpsman he never failed to fulfill his duties of providing medical care to soldiers injured on the battlefield. This sometimes meant running into the most volatile of situations without any weapons to protect himself. 

Ballard took an oath that he "will not knowingly permit harm to come to any patient," and on May 16, 1968 he rose above and beyond the call of duty. While tending to ill patients, his unit fell under a bombardment of enemy fire and they were split up. Amidst the firefight, a grenade landed right near the patients Ballard was trying so hard to keep alive. Taking his Corpsman oath and pledging his life to it; instincts took over and Ballard threw himself on top of the grenade to shield the injured men from an imminent explosion. Once the grenade failed to detonate, he launched it in the air and away from his unit. It exploded away from any American soldiers and he quickly got back to tending to his patients. 

On May 14, 1970, Donald Ballard received the highest military award, the Medal of Honor. Working his way through the ranks and over to the Army National Guard, Ballard served the United States until his retirement in 2000.

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