Life gets busy for Medal of Honor recipient


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Medal of Honor recipient and retired U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Melvin Morris, right, is joined by his wife Mary and Dan Smith, the president of the Military Officers Association of America Cape Canaveral Chapter.

Marilyn Sanford

Medal of Honor recipient Melvin Morris shared with members of the Military Officers of America Cape Canaveral Chapter how his life has changed since he was honored with the medal.

Morris, a retired Army staff sergeant and the only living Medal of Honor recipient in Brevard County, was the guest speaker at a recent MOAACC luncheon meeting.

Because of speaking engagements and community involvement, Morris has had to set aside the fishing he was doing since retiring. But he tries to honor as many requests for speaking engagements as possible.

“I’ve been busy ever since I received the Medal of Honor,” Morris said. “It gets hard, but I try not to turn them down.”

Since he received the medal, he has traveled throughout the state and around the nation speaking to different veterans and civic groups. He also is involved with the Medal of Honor Foundation’s Community Development Program. The program works with teachers to promote understanding among students of the American tradition of liberty, military history and patriotic values. Using oral histories of Medal of Honor recipients, the program focuses on how students can use examples of courage, commitment, sacrifice, integrity, citizenship and patriotism to influence change in their communities.

Morris, who lives in Cocoa, said he has only missed attending meetings and speaking engagements twice. He said that for the first time he had not traveled in about a month. The longest stretches before had been about two weeks.

“I think this is the longest break I’ve had in five years,” he said.

Despite the busy schedule, Morris said it was a pleasure speaking at the MOAACC meeting.

“The reception was great,” he said. “They received me well.”

Morris was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions on Sept. 17, 1969 in Vietnam. He was commanding the Third Company, Third Battalion of the IV Mobile Strike Force, near Chi Lang, and led an advance across enemy lines to retrieve a fallen comrade. He single-handedly destroyed an enemy force that had pinned down his battalion. Morris was shot three times as he ran back toward friendly lines with the American casualties, but he did not stop until he reached safety.

Morris initially was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross in April 1970 for his extraordinary heroism. Within a month, he returned to Vietnam for his second tour. Morris retired from the Army in 1985.

In 2002, the Defense Authorization Act called for a review of veterans of World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War to ensure that no prejudice was shown to those deserving the Medal of Honor. As a result, Morris was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, which he received from President Obama on March 18, 2014.

MOAACC members contributed to this story.