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Specialist 6 Lawrence Joel

Date of Award: April 5, 1967
Conflict: Vietnam War
Branch: U.S. Army

Sp6c. Lawrence Joel portraitA native of Winston-Salem, N.C., Joel joined the Merchant Marines, which were responsible for transporting cargo and passengers during peace time as an auxiliary to the Navy, for one year and then enlisted into the U.S. Army at the age of 18. As a medic with the 1st Battalion, 503rd Airborne Infantry, 173rd Airborne Brigade, Specialist Fifth Class Lawrence Joel became the first African-American since the Spanish-American War of 1898, to be awarded the Medal of Honor.

He received the award for his heroic actions on November 8, 1965, in the area know as the Iron Triangle, an enemy stronghold in northwest Saigon. Joel served in the Korean War and Vietnam before retiring in 1973. The Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum was dedicated in his name, and opened in his hometown in 1989. There are also two U.S. Army clinics and an auditorium at Walter Reed Army Medical Center named in his honor.

Citation: “Completely ignoring the warnings of others, and his pain, he continued his search for wounded, exposing himself to hostile fire; and, as bullets dug up the dirt around him, he held plasma bottles high while kneeling completely engrossed in his life saving mission. Then, after being struck a second time and with a bullet lodged in his thigh, he dragged himself over the battlefield and succeeded in treating 13 more men before his medical supplies ran out.”

Last Updated: July 11, 2023
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