By Army Sgt. Dustin Roberts
Special to American Forces Press Service
April 15, 2009 - Two Vietnam War veterans who survived combat and who received the Medal of Honor visited soldiers serving in Multinational Division Baghdad here with the 1st Infantry Division's 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team at Warrior Chapel on Camp Liberty yesterday. Retired Army Col. Robert Howard and retired Army Command Sgt. Maj. Gary Littrell spoke to the "Dagger Brigade" soldiers about keeping morale high while maintaining a sense of urgency, and they took the opportunity to answer questions from the soldiers.
"We try to visit soldiers here and in Afghanistan every April," said Littrell, who spent four days on a hill in Vietnam fighting enemy mortar and small-arms fire. "It's very important that we visit the men and women who are preserving the same freedom we preserved many years ago."
Littrell and Howard -- who also earned the Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star and eight Purple Hearts for his actions in Vietnam -- gave words of encouragement and advice during their visit.
"Many of you have family at home, and because of the technology today, keep them informed and tell them how you are doing," Howard said. "This is good for everyone's morale, and it will help you focus on the mission."
The two recipients of the nation's highest award for conspicuous gallantry in battle took turns speaking to the troops, emphasizing that commitment to mission accomplishment is what motivates leaders to get the job done.
"After reading my citation, I felt that I did deserve the Medal of Honor," Littrell said. "At the time, all I was thinking was I was a noncommissioned officer in the United States Army with a job to do and soldiers to take care of."
Littrell told the soldiers that if they were placed in the same predicament, they would have the same level of integrity and courage to put total effort into the fight, no matter how long it took.
"You are fine young men and women who have outstanding tools and leadership," he said. "We are behind you all the way, and as long as we are able to make the trip, we will continue to visit the servicemembers in Iraq and Afghanistan."
When the time came for soldiers to ask the veterans questions, Army Staff Sgt. Andres Redondo, a native of Overland Park, Kan., asked how they stayed motivated and motivated their soldiers during the time they spent thousands of miles away from their families.
"We had no choice but to stay motivated as leaders," Howard said. "As for our soldiers, we reminded them that God and country came before our needs."
Littrell added that today's Army has more resources in quality of life, weapons systems and medical care to meet the needs of soldiers than were available in the Vietnam War era.
Greenville, N.C., native Army Command Sgt. Maj. Donald Battle, the brigade's senior enlisted advisor, introduced the soldiers' guests and thanked them for sharing their knowledge and support with the Dagger soldiers.
"It's because of Americans like Colonel Howard and Command Sergeant Major Littrell that we can still serve in America's Army," Battle said. "They are heroes, and we owe them great respect and thanks for coming to visit us."
(Army Sgt. Dustin Roberts serves in Multinational Division Baghdad with the 1st Infantry Division's 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team.)