May 23, 1994 The East Room 11:07 A.M.
THE PRESIDENT: To the distinguished leaders of the military
and the Congress who are here; family and friends of the two men on
whom we will confer the nation's highest military award, the Medal of
Sergeant Gary Gordon and Sergeant
First Class Randall Shughart were real American heroes.
During a military operation on October 3rd, two American
helicopters were downed by hostile fire. Although United
States Army Rangers established a defensive perimeter around the
first downed helicopter, they could not reach the second one quickly
by land. In the wreckage of this helicopter lay four injured Army
Another helicopter with Sergeants Gordon and Shughart on
board was dispatched to provide cover from above. But they came under
withering fire, and the two sergeants instinctively understood that if
the downed crew was to stand a chance of survival someone would have
to get them on the ground.
Immediately Sergeants Gordon and Shughart volunteered to
go. They were told, no, it's too dangerous. They volunteered again.
Again, they were told no. They volunteered a third time, and
permission finally was granted.
Sergeants Gordon and Shughart knew their own chances of
survival were extremely bleak. The pilot of their helicopter said that
anyone in their right mind would never have gone in. But they insisted
on it because they were comrades in danger, because they believed
passionately in the creed that says, "I will not fail those with
whom I serve." And so they asked their pilot to hover just above
the ground, and they jumped into the ferocious firefight.
The citations that will be read shortly describe the
extraordinary courage that Sergeants Gordon and Shughart demonstrated
in the battle that followed. Gary Gordon and Randall Shughart died in
the most courageous and selfless way any human being can act. They
risked their lives without hesitation. They gave their lives to save
others. Their actions were clearly above and beyond the call of duty.
Today on behalf of the United States Congress I award them
both the Medal of Honor. They join a roll of heroes that includes
soldiers like Sergeant York, Audie Murphy, Jimmie Doolittle, Teddy
Roosevelt, Jr., Senator Kerrey, and only some 3,000 others across more
than two centuries of our nation's history.
We will remember Sergeants Gordon and Shughart not only as
heroes who fell in battle, but as good men who loved their families.
Randall Shughart was raised on a dairy farm. He loved the outdoors. He
and his wife, Stephanie, planned to build a log cabin in Montana for
Gary Gordon was a gentle father who filled notebooks with
stories for his two young children. He dreamed of starting a
furniture-making shop with his wife, Carmen.
Both were men whose dreams and generous hearts we can never
adequately portray. Both were quiet men whose steadiness gave strength
to all who knew them. Both would probably feel a bit uncomfortable
about being the center of so much attention. We were just doing our
job, they would probably say -- a job they loved and a job they had
Of course, there is little we can do to ease the pain, the
sense of loss that their loved ones feel. We know they will live in
the memories of those whose lives they touched. We pray that their
families will find strength in their faiths during this time and in
the times to come. But we can also draw comfort from the words of the
pilot they saved, Chief Warrant Officer Michael Durant. "Without
a doubt," he says, "I owe my life to these two men and their
Sergeants Gordon and Shughart died on October 3rd for a
noble and important cause, to give Durant and others a chance to live.
They were part of a larger mission -- a difficult one -- that saved
hundreds of thousands of innocent Somalis from starvation, and gave
that nation a chance to build its own future.
Only America could assume and accomplish such a mission. It
is a part of who we are as a people, what we are as a nation, why we
are trusted and respected around the globe; and that, too, is a part
of our national security. As I said when I welcomed home members of
the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, if there are any debates
still to be had about our mission in Somalia, let people have those
debates where they belong -- with the President and the policymakers.
But let there be no debate about the professionalism and the valor of
those who served there, and the valor of those who died there. We are
proud of what they did. We honor them. We thank them.
On the wall of the Special Forces Memorial Court at Ft.
Bragg, the words of the prophet Isaiah are etched in stone: "I
heard the voice of the Lord saying, 'Whom shall I send and who will go
for us?'" Master Sergeant Gary Gordon and Sergeant First Class
Randall Shughart answered that call. Today, we inscribe their lives
and their deeds in the distinguished and valorous history of this
country's men and women in uniform. We pray that God will embrace
their souls. Any may their service and sacrifice inspired generations
to come. (The Medal of Honor is presented to the families.)
OF HONOR CITATION