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Friday, January 13, 2006

Honors for My Lai Hero Came Much Too Late

Published on Thursday, January 12, 2006 by the Madison Capital Times (Wisconsin)
by Mike Boehm
 
Lost among the headlines about Iraq and secret detentions was the story of the death last week of a hero and a patriot: Hugh Thompson.
 
In 1998, Thompson was awarded the Soldier's Medal, for heroism not involving conflict with an enemy, for his actions to save civilians in My Lai, Vietnam, on March 16, 1968. Thompson died of cancer Friday morning in Alexandria, La., at the age of 62.
 
Reading the press coverage of the presentation of the Soldier's Medal to Army pilot Thompson and his two helicopter crewmen, Larry Colburn and Glenn Andreotta, could leave the impression that the award was the culmination of a natural and just process.
 
These three heroes, led by Thompson, rescued 10 Vietnamese villagers who were about to be killed by American soldiers, and they were responsible for stopping the My Lai massacre, led by Lt. William Calley Jr.
 
It took 30 years for Thompson to receive proper recognition for his actions that day, 30 years before it became safe to honor him for standing up to fellow American soldiers.
 
Hugh Thompson believed deeply that the military was an honorable profession and that in time of war it was important to behave in an honorable way. He paid a heavy price for his beliefs.
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