SEMINOLE – Medal of Honor recipient Gary Littrell, a retired U.S. Army Command sergeant major, visited Richard O. Jacobson Technical High School Oct. 23.
The St. Pete Beach resident is a speaker in the Medal of Honor Society’s Character Development Program. While at Richard O. Jacobson, he talked about his life experiences while focusing on the CDP’s six core character traits: courage, patriotism, integrity, commitment, citizenship and sacrifice.
“Mr. Littrell spoke about integrity, being truthful and honest about big and small parts of life. He emphasized that you should be able to look at yourself in the mirror and be proud of what you see because you live your life filled with integrity,” said Marti Giancola, principal.
While all of these core values impact Littrell’s life, he pointed to patriotism and integrity as the two that are personally most important to him.
“Patriotism and integrity are my two strong points,” he said, adding that he “bleeds red, white and blue.”
His story of being orphaned at a young age and his career in the Army, as well as the importance of these values, left a mark on the students at Richard O’ Jacobson.
“Although he also talked about courage, commitment, sacrifice, citizenship and patriotism, integrity was the core value that we heard our students speaking about with friends and teachers,” Giancola said. “His honesty about his own life kept the message practical and was delivered with sincerity. The students were impressed by his honesty and Mr. Littrell quickly got their attention and trust.”
The Kentucky native was awarded the Medal of Honor in 1970 while serving in the Vietnam War as an Army sergeant first class.
According to the citation from the Medal of Honor Society, Littrell was honored “for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty” while serving as a light weapons infantry advisor with the 23rd battalion, 2nd Ranger group of the Republic of Vietnam Army near Dak Seang.
From April 4-8, 1970, the battalion, after establishing a defensive perimeter on a hill, underwent an intense enemy mortar attack. The attack killed the Vietnamese commander and one advisor, and seriously wounded all other advisors, except Littrell, leaving him in charge.
During the four-day siege, Littrell “exhibited near superhuman endurance as he single-handedly bolstered the besieged battalion,” the citation reads. “Repeatedly abandoning positions of relative safety, he directed artillery and air support by day and marked the unit’s location by night, despite the heavy, concentrated enemy fire. His dauntless will instilled in the men of the 23rd Battalion a deep desire to resist. Assault after assault was repulsed as the battalion responded to the extraordinary leadership and personal example exhibited by Sfc. Littrell, as he continuously moved to those points most seriously threatened by the enemy, redistributed ammunition, strengthened faltering defenses, cared for the wounded, and shouted encouragement to the Vietnamese in their own language.”
When the battalion was ordered to withdraw, despite numerous ambushes, Littrell was able to lead the men to safety and “averted excessive loss of life and injury.”