MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Milwaukee County officials on Wednesday, March 25th re-christened a Milwaukee street in honor of hometown hero Gary Wetzel.
The sheer number of names inscribed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. is enough to take your breath away. More than 58,000 Americans gave their lives in that war, and their names are now memorialized in the nation's capital. Thanks to the actions of Gary Wetzel, men who would have had their names on the wall have instead been able to lead full lives.
"Because Gary doesn't have one ounce of quit in him, there are fewer names on that wall in Washington than there might otherwise be," an official said Wednesday.
Wetzel's heroics in Vietnam in 1968 earned the South Milwaukee native the Medal of Honor. To further honor him, officials re-christened the street in front of the Milwaukee County War Memorial as "Gary Wetzel Medal of Honor Way."
"He was shot down for the fifth time. He was blown up and blown into a rice paddy. This was his defining moment. He stuffed what was left of his left arm into his fatigues and went to work. And he didn't stop until he had suppressed the enemy fire, cleared the landing zone and saved countless lives," an official said Wednesday.
Speaker after speaker at a ceremony in Wetzel's honor Wednesday called Wetzel a hometown hero and Wisconsin's top military official stopped to salute him. Yet you'd be hard-pressed to find a more humble hero.
"After four decades I have the privilege of wearing this blue ribbon around my neck and I am still so honored," Wetzel said.
Wetzel says he was simply a soldier doing his job, though he hopes the public tribute to him will help America's youth understand the price of freedom.
"Let them realize that when they look at that flag and we use the word 'freedom' let them realize that there's a price that's paid for it by the people that aren't here," Wetzel said.
Wetzel is one of just 79 living Medal of Honor recipients.