Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Morris “Top” Adair was a decorated U.S. Special Forces veteran who left Vietnam a month after being wounded in his last mission. His family welcomed him home, but for almost 30 years Operation Tailwind was something he could not talk about.
Then, the 85-year-old was invited to the White House where the heroism he witnessed 47 years earlier got the recognition he’d always hoped for but never expected.
On Oct. 23, Adair, of Forsyth, watched as his comrade retired Capt. Gary Michael “Mike” Rose received the Medal of Honor, the nations’ highest military award, from President Trump for voluntarily risking his life while serving as Special Forces medic in Operation Tailwind.
The top secret mission was designed to slow the flow of enemy arms on the Ho Chi Minh Trail and divert the Army of North Vietnam from positions near American troops.
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On Sept. 11, 1970, the Green Berets flew into Laos to blow up a bridge and gather intelligence. Over the next three days, the unit engaged against a much larger force in enemy-controlled territory.
Rose, then a sergeant, repeatedly ran into the line of enemy fire to provide medical aid to the injured. On one occasion, he used his own body to shield a wounded American from harm, according to the White House.
During the mission, Rose was wounded as a rocket-propelled grenade exploded and shot smoldering metal into his back and leg. The shrapnel left a hole in his foot, according to a CNN transcript of President Trump’s remarks.
“It hit a tree,” Adair said. “And when it hit, it exploded, and shrapnel just went everywhere. I got hit in the left leg. I was able to walk.”
Though injured, Rose still ran through enemy fire moving wounded personnel and, on the final day, loading them into helicopters. Rose boarded the final extraction helicopter, and it was hit, causing it to crash shortly after takeoff.
Rose again ignored his own injuries to pull the crew and his comrades from the wreckage and provide medical aid until another helicopter arrived.
“In every action during those four days Mike valiantly fought for the life of his comrades, even if it meant the end of his own life,” President Trump said at the award ceremony. “Mike ... your will to endure, your love for your fellow soldier, your devotion to your country inspires us all. I have to tell you. That is something.”
Rose treated 60 to 70 men, the president said.
“There were some people involved, definitely, who would not have come back without his medical attention,” Adair said. “If it hadn’t been for Rose, they never would have lived.”
Ten of the men in the unit attended the ceremony in Washington.
“It was a thrilling experience,” Adair said of his trip to the White House. “I was already real excited to see Rose receive the honor he should have received a long time ago. He was recommended for it, but the fact that the operation took place where it did, at that time it was classified top secret and you couldn’t acknowledge the fact that you had a military operation taking place in that country.”