DAYTON — A group of sophomore students from Piqua High School got the opportunity to hear from a one-of-a-kind veteran on Friday morning.
Major General Patrick H. Brady, the only living Army veteran of Vietnam to hold both the Medal of Honor and the Distinguished Service Cross, spoke with students of the U.S. Studies college prep class at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.
Brady was awarded the Medal of Honor for a series of rescues he completed in a combat zone in during the Vietnam War. The rescues began at sunrise and ended after dark. At the end of the day, the three helicopters he flew in had over 400 holes in them and two crew members were injured. Brady was able to evacuate over 70 patients that day, including many people who may not have lived if not for the quick medical care.
In two tours in the Vietnam War, Brady developed foul weather and tactical techniques for air ambulance known as “Dust Off.” He also flew over 2,500 combat missions and rescued over 5,000 wounded soldiers.
“You don’t have to be in combat, you don’t have to go to war, to be a hero,” Brady said.
Brady spoke at length about the importance of America’s veterans and how the development of one’s character can lead to success and happiness.
“You guys can be every bit of as heroic as … William Pitsenbarger,” Brady said, citing Piqua’s own Medal of Honor recipient. Airman First Class Pitsenbarger was a pararescue crew member and died during a mission on April 11, 1966, near Cam My in the Vietnam War during a rescue mission.
While the United States does not have “kings or queens,” Brady said, “We do have a nobility … veterans.”
Brady went on, saying, “Those are the people who allowed you to speak English today … to have the freedoms you have today.” Brady reiterated that the students should remember that about veterans and be grateful for it when they meet veterans.
The next factor that Brady discussed was the idea the people are not born equal in terms of ability.
“We are not all born equal,” Brady said. He said that even in their class, the students will find people who are bigger, faster, stronger, smarter, and so on, than themselves.
“We are not in fact, in terms of ability … born equal,” Brady said. “But that does not matter.”
What was important was people’s courage. Brady stated that everyone was born equal with an endless capacity for courage if they chose to use it.
“You can’t use it up,” Brady said. “It is the key to success in life.”
Brady described courage as when “you come to a breaking point and you don’t break.”
“(When you) get up in the morning, go to school, do what’s right … every day to try and improve on your life, that takes courage,” Brady said. “The key to success in life is courage, and you can have all you want, you can’t use it up … It’s a great equalizer in life.”
Brady also stated that faith, something that people believe in that they see as beyond themselves and as worthy of living or dying for, is a good driver for courage.
Brady told a story of a football player who went on to play the best game he had ever played after his father’s recent death.
Afterward, the football player said, “Well, my father was blind all his life and this was the first time he could see me play,” according to Brady. “This man had faith his father was there watching him … The source of courage is faith.”
After that, Brady stated that the key to success and happiness was sacrifice and sacrificial love.
“There are a lot of very successful people who are not happy … In my experience, the key to happiness in life is sacrifice,” Brady said. “Take that great emotion, love, and you do something with it … You prove it with your actions.”
When a student asked Brady when he knew he wanted to join the Army, Brady said that he never knew.
“I was stalking this foxy young chick,” Brady said.
Brady explained that he had football scholarships to different schools, but the one that this woman, Nancy, was attending did not have a football program. Instead, it had a mandatory ROTC program.
“I didn’t trust her to be away from me,” Brady said. “In order to keep my eye on her, I gave up my scholarships.”
Through the ROTC program, he went on assignments to Berlin, Moscow, Korea, and more. The Army then paid for Brady to go to flight school.
“They sent me to Vietnam to prove I am the greatest helicopter pilot that ever lived,” Brady said.
Brady and Nancy eventually married and had six children.
At the end of Brady’s talk, he quizzed students John Shedd and Abigail Cole on his presentation. They each received Challenge Coins after they answered each question correctly.
“These kids were pretty bright,” Brady said after his talk with the students. “They were paying attention.”
After 34 years in the Army, Brady has been retired for approximately 20 years. He continues to do talks like this one with students and kids through a character development program called “Medal of Honor: Lessons of Personal Bravery and Self-Sacrifice” in order to try and inspire them.
“You’ll hope you’ll change them,” Brady said. “We’re hoping that we can help make these kids better people.”
Brady said that they receive letters from kids they do talks with “all the time.”
“It’s always rewarding,” Brady said.
“I thought it was cool,” Kiersten Chambers, 15, said after Brady’s talk. “And he was funny.”
Both Chambers and Ally Richardson, 15, said that they would remember Brady’s talk after leaving the museum, taking it with them as motivation for different parts of life like at sports games.
Brady has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Seattle University and an MBA from Notre Dame University. His book “Dead Men Flying” was published in 2012 with his daughter Meghan. The book discusses Brady’s experiences with the origin and execution of “Dust Off.” Brady also stated that “Dead Men Flying” also covers the humanitarian aspects of the Vietnam War.
Reach reporter Sam Wildow at (937) 451-3336 or on Twitter @TheDailyCall