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PFC Milton Olive, III


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Born on 7 November 1946, PFC Milton Olive, III became the first African American soldier to receive the Medal of Honor for his actions in the Vietnam War.

On October 22, 1965, while on patrol near Phu Cuong, Vietnam, soldiers of Bravo Company 2nd/ 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade were given the mission of securing a 60-square-mile area known as War Zone D, or the “Iron Triangle.” As the soldiers moved through the thick jungle brush trying to locate Viet Cong, they came under fire but were able to push the enemy back. As PFC Olive and four other soldiers were in pursuit of Viet Cong, one of the enemy turned and threw a hand grenade into the middle of the platoon. PFC Olive dashed forward yelling “I’ve got it,” tucked it into his middle and moved away from the others, falling on the grenade and absorbing the full blast. His selfless act of bravery saved the lives of four soldiers. He was just 18 years old.


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PFC Olive’s story struck me because he was from the south side of Chicago, which is a hot spot for gang violence. Chicago has been on multiple media outlets for its recent socio-political atmosphere, and I found it refreshing that a 19-year-old young black man from this area gave his own life to save the lives of four people.

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