Medal of Honor winner Mike Rose: Huntsville’s humble hero

single-meta-cal November 6, 2017

On Oct. 23, retired U.S. Army Captain Gary Michael Rose, a 70-year-old resident of Huntsville, was presented the Medal of Honor by President Trump. He was honored for his heroics on a mission some 47 years ago in which Rose, a medic, saved dozens of lives. As Veterans Week begins, Warren Harmon, president of the Vietnam Veterans of America chapter 1067 in Huntsville, writes about Rose, as told to City Blog writer Mark McCarter.

Mike Rose is a real humble guy. He doesn’t like to talk about his experiences and he doesn’t like to be in the limelight. He doesn’t like being called a hero.

He’s a regular guy. He’s real nice, and he talks to everybody. He just doesn’t talk much about his exploits in Vietnam. But a lot of guys who served in Vietnam are the same way.

He’s well-deserving of the award. It’s just amazing all the stuff he did.”

I first met Mike in the fall of 2016 through Larry Wyenandt, who is vice president of our Vietnam Veterans of America chapter. He invited Mike to a meeting and he joined our chapter.

It’s very prestigious for our organization to have a Medal of Honor recipient as part of our chapter. We’re very proud of Mike and his accomplishments. We had another Medal of Honor recipient, the late Leo Thorsness. He was quite a hero, and we named our chapter after Leo.

There were 16 Americans on that mission in Laos in 1970 as part of a special operations group of military assistance in Vietnam. They were with about 120 Montagnards, the indigenous fighters. At the time, it was a top-secret mission. They dropped them right on the North Vietnamese army, a large element. It was a big battle for about three days and they were running out of ammo.

Mike saved a lot of guys. He pulled them out from under fire where they were wounded and pulled them to safety. Finally, they got evacuated. He got on the last helicopter, but it was shot down.

He pulled the wounded and the crew out of the helicopter and helped them get away until another helicopter could get in and get them. A lot of people would not put their life in jeopardy like that, going out under live fire and trying to drag people back. He was wounded three times himself. But he just feels like it was his job.

‘We all earned it’

It was little-known because it was a top-secret mission. He couldn’t even talk about it for 20 years, and he doesn’t really like talking about it today. Even once he got the Medal of Honor, he’s tried to keep to himself. He doesn’t like all the attention and the publicity. He thinks about the other Green Berets who were there, too. Like he said at the White House, “This is our medal. We all earned it.”

He’s well-deserving of the award. It’s just amazing all the stuff he did. Having done two combat tours, I saw a lot of firefights, and we were ambushed and that ended up in a three-day battle. So I can appreciate what Mike did.

He saved so many lives over those three or four days. To me, that’s heroic. He just doesn’t feel like he’s such a hero over all the others that were with him during that battle.

Warren Harmon

Warren Harmon is a charter member and the president of the Vietnam Veterans of America chapter 1067 in Huntsville, one of the 10 largest chapters in the country. The chapter, formed in 2012, has grown from a small group of veterans to a membership of 515. Harmon, a Decatur resident, served two combat tours of duty in Vietnam, one with the Marine Corps, the second with the U.S. Army, and retired as a Chief Warrant Officer.

Lead Photo: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, Pablo Martinez Monsivais