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21Country: Ohio soldier’s sacrifice in Vietnam will never be forgotten

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA21) - Medal of Honor recipient A1C William Pitsenbarger may not be from 21Country, but he will forever be remembered for his valiant sacrifice here.

The Piqua, Ohio native was an Air Force para-rescue and medical specialist fought and died in the Vietnam War.

Eric Johnson, with the Veterans National Memorial Shrine and Museum, told us the incredible story.

“He was called upon to go out and rescue people,” Johnson, a Vietnam veteran himself, explained, “that day he was killed, he wasn’t even on the schedule to go out. Ironically, it was the first infantry division that was pinned down. He went out that day… down to rescue a couple guys.”

On April 11, 1966, Pitsenbarger’s actions saved the lives of nine men.

He planned to help dozens of others... at the cost of his own life.

“When it was time for him to go up, he said, ‘I’m staying, there’s too many guys that need my help!’” Johnson continued, “being a medic as he was, he was trying to save lives… and he ended up getting killed. To me, he’s a hero. Guys like that don’t come along every day. That’s why he won the medal of honor.”

But the military’s highest accolade, would be awarded to Pitsenbarger decades after his death.

“To get it, they like to document everything,” Johnson said, “If you ever watch The Last Full Measure, it’s the story about William Pitsenbarger - it took so long because they had to do their diligence with the members of the team they served with.”

The film, is important to Johnson, in more ways than one.

It’s distributor, Lionsgate, paid to have a bench displayed at the Veterans National Shrine and Museum.

A ceremony was held last year, to dedicate the bench in Pitsenbarger’s honor.

A survivor and witness to Pitsenbarger’s valiant actions, shared his story, on the shrine grounds, in 2020.

RELATED: Replica Vietnam Memorial Wall unveiled in Fort Wayne

With the Replica Vietnam Memorial Wall unveiled over the weekend, “Pits' bench" will soon have a new location: in front of panel E6, where the late soldier’s name can be found.

This Memorial Day, Johnson recommends thanking veterans for their service, and just taking the time to listen to what they have to say.

“They all got stories. It’s wonderful that they share those stories and get them out. A lot of those guys came back with PTSD,” he told us, “Maybe they were amputated, lost a leg, or an arm… Our new t-shirt has the wall on the front of it, and on the back it says ‘all gave some, some gave all’, and that’s really what the wall is about.”

The Last Full Measure will be shown on Flag Day (June 14) at the Auburn Garrett Drive-In.

The cost will be $20 per car, and money raised will go towards the Veterans National Memorial Shrine and Museum.

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Daniel Beals

Daniel Beals is the producer of the ABC21 feature franchise “21Country”. He is constantly on the lookout for ideas that capture the “people, places, things, and history” that makes Northeast Indiana unique. Feel free to reach out: dbeals@wpta21.com.

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