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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release May 23, 1994
                       REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT

The East Room

11:07 A.M. EDT

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 Honor: Master 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 crewmen.

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 their retirement.

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 plainly mastered.

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 bravery."

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.)

END11:15 A.M. EDT