|Retired Maj. Gen. Patrick Brady, a recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor for valor on the battlefield during the Vietnam War, visited Pope John Paul II High School on Friday, Aug. 7, and talked to the students. Brady was in Nashville for the three days of events surrounding “Nashville Salutes Medal of Honor Recipients.” Brady shares a moment on stage with JPII junior Kathleen White, whose parents are U.S. Marines. Photo by Andy Telli
U.S. Army retired Maj. Gen. Patrick Brady demonstrated courage in Vietnam, flying his helicopter into bad weather and enemy fire – when other pilots couldn’t – to fly wounded soldiers to safety. For his bravery, he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest and rarest decoration the U.S. military can give a person.
But there are other kinds of courage that are even harder to achieve, Brady told students at Pope John Paul II High School during an assembly on Friday, Aug. 7. “The toughest kind of courage …,” he said, “is to do what is right every day.”
Brady was in Nashville for “Nashville Salutes Medal of Honor Recipients,” a three-day event honoring those who have received the Medal of Honor, which is given for “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his or her life above and beyond the call of duty while engaged in action against the enemy of the United States.”
No one is born equal in ability or opportunity, Brady told the students. “There is one way and only one way we are all born equal and that is in courage. You can never use it up.”
While fear is an emotion, Brady said, courage is a decision.
“The key to courage is faith,” Brady said. “It’s as simple as that, the simple belief that there’s something above and beyond. … For me in combat, my faith was a substitute for fear.”
Brady is a Catholic and attended a high school run by the Christian Brothers and a college run by the Jesuits.
“I believe the Catholic Church teaches the truth,” Brady said. “Our whole lives should be a search for truth.”
Brady served two tours of duty in Vietnam as an ambulance helicopter pilot, and he flew more than 2,000 missions and transported more than 5,000 patients.
Brady earned the Medal of Honor on Jan. 6, 1968. He made numerous trips into several combat areas, all under enemy fire, to rescue wounded soldiers. At two of the battles, he had to fly through heavy fog, turning his ship sideways to blow away the fog with the backwash from his rotor blades.
At one of the sites, American casualties lay only 50 meters from the enemy and two helicopters had already been shot down trying to reach them and several others made unsuccessful attempts. But Brady was able to make four trips to the site to evacuate all the wounded.
But Brady wasn’t finished. He evacuated the wounded from two more battle sites despite damage to his helicopter and injuries to his crew. On one of the missions he had to land next to an enemy minefield where a platoon of American soldiers was trapped. Although a mine detonated near his helicopter, damaging his ship and wounding two of his crew, he was able to land the helicopter and fly six severely injured soldiers to medical aid.
Throughout the day, Brady used three helicopters to evacuate 51 wounded soldiers, many of whom would have died without medical treatment.
Brady told the students when he was in combat he didn’t fear dying. “What better way to die than to die saving others,” he said.
“The medal we wear is for all veterans,” said Brady. Others showed as much courage in combat but they don’t have a medal because no one was there to see it or took the time to write an account of what happened so they could be considered for an honor.
Brady holds the highest rank of any living Medal of Honor recipient. Brady retired from the Army in 1993 after 34 years of service.
“You’ll find people who are very successful, but they’re not always happy,” Brady told the students. “The key to happiness is sacrifice. Sacrifice is love in action. The more you sacrifice, the greater your ability to sacrifice … your capacity for leadership will grow.”