Fallen Warrior: Chief Master Sgt. Richard Etchberger

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  • By 81st Training Wing Public Affairs
  • 81st Training Wing Public Affairs

For our Fallen Warrior commemoration this week, we remember U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Richard Etchberger, 1043rd Radar Evaluation Squadron member.

Etchberger was assigned to a previously Top Secret mission in Laos where he held off the enemy while simultaneously directing air strikes into the area and calling for air rescue.

When a helicopter arrived, Etchberger repeatedly and deliberately risked his own life. He left his safe position and braved enemy fire to place three wounded technicians in helicopter slings.

With his remaining crew safely aboard, Etchberger finally climbed into the rescue sling. Tragically, a burst of enemy ground fire fatally wounded him as the helicopter turned away from the mountain.

For his heroism and sacrifice, Etchberger received the Air Force Cross posthumously. The operation remained classified, however, and the existence of the award was not publicly acknowledged until 1998. After the declassification of the mission and a reevaluation of his actions, Etchberger was awarded the Medal of Honor in 2010.

Editor's note: The Fallen Warrior series highlights Fallen Warriors who exemplify our core values and paid the ultimate sacrifice. Take a moment to honor this week’s hero.