Gary Wetzel is among 62 Wisconsin recipients of the Medal of Honor who are commemorated by a new monument at the Wisconsin
Veterans Home in King.
He was the keynote speaker during the unveiling ceremony Friday, Nov. 16.
Specialist Fourth Class Wetzel served two tours in Vietnam in the 173rd Assault Helicopter Company as a door gunner.
On Jan. 8, 1968, Wetzel was part of an insertion force near Ap Dong An that was trapped in a landing zone by intense enemy fire, according to his medal citation.
While attempting to aid his commander, Wetzel was blown into a rice paddy and critically wounded by two rockets that exploded inches from his location.
He lost his left arm in the explosion and suffered severe wounds to his right arm, chest and left leg.
Wetzel staggered back to the helicopter and fired his machine gun until he eliminated an automatic weapons emplacement that had been causing heavy casualties.
Wetzel then attempted to return to the aid of his aircraft commander but passed out from the loss of blood.
Regaining consciousness, he continued dragging himself to aid other crewmen. He helped his crew-chief drag the wounded commander to the safety of a nearby dike.
Wetzel told those gathered at the dedication ceremony about his experience after the incident.
He was lying on a hospital bed, and other soldiers came to him and asked him if he was Gary Wetzel.
“They would pull out a picture of their wife or their kids or their girlfriend and say, `Hey, man because of you, that’s what I get to go back to,'” Wetzel said.
The monument recognizes Wisconsin Medal of Honor recipients dating back to the Civil War.
Only four of the recipients are still alive.
During the ceremony former Green Bay Packers players Bill Ferrario, Johnnie Gray and Bill Schroeder presented a $5,000 donation toward the monument from the NFL Charities National Partnership Fund.