During 2019, Freedoms Foundation and the Friends of the Medal of Honor Grove are paying tribute to the living recipients of the Medal of Honor on the anniversary of the actions for which they earned the nation’s highest award for valor. The series continues with a look at Navy Hospital Corpsman Second Class Donald E. Ballard, whose Marine unit was ambushed by North Vietnamese soldiers in Quang Tri Province, South Vietnam, on May 16, 1968.
Donald E. Ballard’s Medal of Honor citation reads:
“For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life and beyond the call of duty while serving as a HC2c. with Company M, in connection with operations against enemy aggressor forces.
“During the afternoon hours, Company M was moving to join the remainder of the 3d Battalion in Quang Tri Province. After treating and evacuating two heat casualties, HC2c. Ballard was returning to his platoon from the evacuation landing zone when the company was ambushed by a North Vietnamese Army unit employing automatic weapons and mortars, and sustained numerous casualties.
“Observing a wounded Marine, HC2c. Ballard unhesitatingly moved across the fire-swept terrain to the injured man and swiftly rendered medical assistance to his comrade. HC2c. Ballard then directed four Marines to carry the casualty to a position of relative safety.
“As the four men prepared to move the wounded Marine, an enemy soldier suddenly left his concealed position and, after hurling a hand grenade which landed near the casualty, commenced firing upon the small group of men. Instantly shouting a warning to the Marines, HC2c. Ballard fearlessly threw himself upon the lethal explosive device to protect his comrades from the deadly blast.
“When the grenade failed to detonate, he calmly arose from his dangerous position and resolutely continued his determined efforts in treating other Marine casualties.
“HC2c. Ballard’s heroic actions and selfless concern for the welfare of his companions served to inspire all who observed him and prevented possible injury or death to his fellow Marines. His courage, daring initiative, and unwavering devotion to duty in the face of extreme personal danger, sustain and enhance the finest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.”
Peter Collier continues the story of Ballard, who would receive three Purple Hearts during his time in Vietnam, in Medal of Honor: Portraits of Valor Beyond the Call of Duty:
“After being wounded again in the fall of 1968, Ballard returned to the United States and was assigned to work in a Navy surgical clinic. One day an Army recruiter came to the hospital and offered him a commission to make a “lateral transfer” from the Navy. He had already decided to make a career of the military, so he joined the Army. While waiting to attend Officer Candidate School, he was informed that he was to receive the Medal of Honor. It was presented to him on May 14, 1970, by President Richard Nixon, who told him, “The country has a lot to be thankful for having men of our caliber. I am very proud of you.”
After serving a total of 35 years, active and reserve, Donald Ballard retired from the Kansas National Guard in 2000 as a colonel.”
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