Today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Army Veteran Louis R. Rocco, a medic who received a Medal of Honor for his actions during the Vietnam War.
Louis R. Rocco was born in November 1938, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. After a troubled childhood growing up in Los Angeles, Rocco joined the Army in 1955. According to an interview he did with the Army Medical Department (AMEDD) Center of History & Heritage, he completed his basic training at the former Fort Ord in California, and then went to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where he began basic medical school.
Rocco served two tours in Vietnam as a medic. His first tour lasted from November 1965 through November 1966 and his second tour from November 1969 through May 1970. During his second tour, he also worked as a medical advisor for the Vietnamese Airborne Division, teaching basic medical procedures and how to care for the wounded.
On May 24, 1970, Rocco volunteered for a medical evacuation of a group of severely wounded South Vietnamese soldiers. His team traveled via helicopter and encountered heavy enemy fire. Rocco and others returned fire, but the helicopter received damage and pilots executed a crash landing. In the interview, Rocco said that he injured his wrist, strained his back and suffered burns on his face and hands.
Despite intense pain, Rocco helped save three soldiers from the flames of the helicopter and carried them individually to safety through an open field vulnerable to enemy fire. Rocco said cover fire from AH-1 Cobra pilots who “kept spraying the area” aided him to ward off enemy fire. Once relocated to a safer location, he performed first aid on the wounded until he passed out from his own wounds. Rocco received a Medal of Honor presented to him at the White House by President Gerald Ford in December 1974.
Rocco retired in 1978 at the rank of chief warrant officer 2. He volunteered to rejoin the Army during the Gulf War in 1991, and helped train medics at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. According to a Washington Post article, he later became the head of the Veteran’s Service Commission in New Mexico and worked with advocacy groups to help deter children from gangs and drugs, reminiscent of his own early childhood.
Rocco passed away in October 2002 in San Antonio, Texas, from lung cancer. He was 63 years old.
We honor his service.
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Writer: Ryan Beane
Editors: Theresa Lyon and Nathaniel Scott
Fact checker: Giacomo Ferrari
Graphic artist: Brittany Gorski