This Day in History: Brian Buker saves his men in Vietnam
On this day in 2010, a family donates a Medal of Honor to a high school in Maine. Sergeant Brian Buker’s alma mater, Lawrence High School, received the medal and put it on display in the school library.
“It will show to the other children just what he was and what they could be . . . . He graduated here and our mother thought it would be good for the school, and this is the reason it’s being dedicated,” Buker’s older brother explained.
Buker was one of four brothers who had volunteered to serve in Vietnam. The other three all came home. Buker did not. Instead, he gave his life in Chau Doc Province during his second tour in Vietnam.
His sacrifice saved the men in his unit.
On April 5, 1970, Buker was in Vietnam serving with the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne). His team was working to eject a North Vietnamese battalion from Chu Pong Mountain, located near the Cambodia border. A firefight broke out when Buker’s unit was partway up the mountain.
The Vietnamese had the advantage. They were shielded in bunkers and behind rocks at a higher elevation. But Buker had established his men in a good position. In fact, their position, Buker’s citation notes, was the “first foothold at the top of what had been an impenetrable mountain fortress.”
The Americans might have found shelter, but they were also coming under heavy fire. They could neither retreat nor advance without putting themselves in a position to incur heavy casualties.
Buker wasn’t going to just sit around! He swung into action, charging through the intense enemy fire, straight toward one of the enemy bunkers. Would you believe that he single-handedly destroyed that bunker with hand grenades?!
He returned to his men, organizing them for an attack on a second bunker, but he was hit and suffered a serious wound at about that time. It didn’t seem to make too much difference to him! He ended up crawling forward, despite his wounds, destroying the second bunker with more hand grenades.
Buker was offered medical attention but refused it. He was too intent on organizing his men into an attack. Unfortunately, during the attempt to organize them, he was hit again, this time fatally. He’d done enough, though. He had crippled the enemy position, and the American assault that followed would be successful.
How often has some version of this story played out in our history? A young man (or woman), with his whole life in front of him, chooses to serve his country instead. Once on the field of battle, he lays his life on the line in service of his comrades and his country. Sometimes, he survives. More often, he does not.
How fortunate we are to have such selfless heroes in our midst.