Friday, April 24, 2009

Donald E. Ballard
U.S. Navy Corpsman

Donald E. Ballard (born December 5, 1945) is an American colonel in the Kansas National Guard and former member of the United States Navy, in which he was a Hospital Corpsman in the Vietnam War and was awarded the Medal of Honor.

Ballard was born in Kansas City, Missouri and it was there that he enlisted in the United States Navy. Sent to Vietnam, Ballard served as a corpsman in the Quang Tri province with Company M, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines (Mike 3/4) of the 3rd Marine Division. On May 16, 1968, Ballard treated two Marines suffering from heat exhaustion, and when returning to his unit from the casualty evacuation helicopter pad he and his company were attacked by the North Vietnamese Army. While under fire, Ballard directed aid to other wounded US Marines and when a grenade landed nearby, he lay on top of it to protect the wounded. The grenade failed to explode and Ballard was able to throw it away to explode harmlessly, and then continue to treat the wounded. For his actions, he received the United States of America's highest award, the Medal of Honor.

In 1970, Ballard received his medal from President Richard M. Nixon and General Westmoreland. He then left the United States Navy and enlisted in Army officer candidate school. Westmoreland offered Ballard a direct commission, however Ballard turned it down for personal reasons. Ballard later joined the Kansas National Guard, and served as an ambulance platoon leader, company commander, and was tasked with creating the new 'Medical Detachment 5', a unit which performs medicals on Guard members in order to save the cost of contracting outside medical help, and of which he was the first member and commander.

On April 5, 1998, Ballard was promoted to colonel by Major General James F. Krueger and currently serves as Special Assistant to the Adjutant General. Inducted into the National Guard Hall of Fame in November 2001, Ballard is one of only three Medal of Honor recipients currently on active service in the United States and the only Kansas Guardsman to have received the award. He is also the subject of a memorial statue at the National Medical War Memorial in Kansas City, depicting Ballard during the action for which he received the Medal of Honor.

Medal of Honor citation
Rank and organization: Hospital Corpsman Second Class, United States Navy, Company M, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines, 3rd Marine Division. Place and date: Quang Tri Province, Republic of Vietnam, May 16, 1968. Entered service at: Kansas City, Mo. Born: December 5, 1945, Kansas City, Mo.

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life and beyond the call of duty while serving as a HM2 with Company M, in connection with operations against enemy aggressor forces. During the afternoon hours, Company M was moving to join the remainder of the 3d Battalion in Quang Tri Province. After treating and evacuating 2 heat casualties, HM2 Ballard was returning to his platoon from the evacuation landing zone when the company was ambushed by a North Vietnamese Army unit employing automatic weapons and mortars, and sustained numerous casualties. Observing a wounded marine, HM2 Ballard unhesitatingly moved across the fire swept terrain to the injured man and swiftly rendered medical assistance to his comrade. HM2 Ballard then directed 4 marines to carry the casualty to a position of relative safety. As the 4 men prepared to move the wounded marine, an enemy soldier suddenly left his concealed position and, after hurling a hand grenade which landed near the casualty, commenced firing upon the small group of men. Instantly shouting a warning to the marines, HM2 Ballard fearlessly threw himself upon the lethal explosive device to protect his comrades from the deadly blast. When the grenade failed to detonate, he calmly arose from his dangerous position and resolutely continued his determined efforts in treating other marine casualties. HM2 Ballard's heroic actions and selfless concern for the welfare of his companions served to inspire all who observed him and prevented possible injury or death to his fellow marines. His courage, daring initiative, and unwavering devotion to duty in the face of extreme personal danger, sustain and enhance the finest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.