Ken Harbaugh tells the stories of service members who have distinguished themselves through an act of valor. These stories feature recipients from the Civil War to present day, including a few who were originally overlooked for the medal.
Before enlisting in the military, Melvin Morris lived out a humble childhood on his grandparent’s farm in Okmulgee, OK. Morris’s career began in the National Guard, and ultimately led to him serving in an Army Special Forces unit in Vietnam. It was there that Morris earned the Medal of Honor by rescuing injured comrades and retrieving classified information from the enemy’s grasp.
Welcome to the Medal of Honor podcast, brought to you in partnership with the National Medal of Honor Museum. I’m Ken Harbaugh. In each episode, we’ll learn about a different service member who has distinguished him or herself through an act of valor.
Sergeant First Class Melvin Morris was born on January 7th, 1942 in Okmulgee, Oklahoma. Morris had a rough upbringing, and often spent time at his grandparents’ farm where there was enough to eat.
According to Morris, “being a soldier was better than being in trouble”, so in 1950 he enlisted in the Oklahoma National Guard and soon transferred to active duty in the Army as an artilleryman. After graduating Airborne School in 1961, he volunteered for the Special Forces, and was one of the first soldiers to earn the Green Beret. As a Green Beret, he volunteered twice for deployments to the Republic of Vietnam, but wouldn’t deploy until late 1968.
In Vietnam, Morris was assigned to the IV Mobile Strike Force, a Special Forces unit that trained and worked with civilian irregulars.
On September 17th, 1969, his unit was engaged near Chi Lang. When Morris heard another team commander was killed near an enemy bunker, he, along with two other soldiers, navigated a minefield in order to recover the body and the classified information the commander carried. Enemy fire wounded his two comrades, but Morris escorted them back to friendly lines. Then, armed with 20 grenades, Morris returned to recover the body alone against heavy machine gun fire. He used hand grenades to destroy four machine gun bunkers before reaching the body. Morris was shot three times as he returned to friendly lines, but successfully recovered the body of his fellow soldier and the classified information.
It took two days for Morris to reach a hospital. After a week of care, he was flown to Japan where he would spend three more months recovering.
In April 1970, Morris was originally awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his valor in that battle. That same month, he returned to Vietnam for another deployment. Morris retired from the Army 15 years later.
On March 18th, 2014, Morris was awarded the Medal of Honor at the White House, thanks in part to a congressional review that aimed to ensure minority veterans received the recognition they deserve. He was also awarded two Bronze Stars and two Purple Hearts.
Morris currently lives in Cocoa, Florida.
The Medal of Honor podcast is a production of Evergreen Podcasts.
Nathan Corson is our producer and engineer, León Pescador is our associate producer, and I’m Ken Harbaugh.
We are proud to support the National Medal of Honor Museum. To learn more, and to support their mission, go to mohmuseum.org. Thanks for listening.