By Robb Lingley
21st Space Wing Public Affairs
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — While at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, July 11, 2018, former Army Staff Sgt. Don Jenkins wanted to see if Airmen would notice he was wearing the Medal of Honor he earned during the Vietnam War. He thought if he ate lunch at the Aragon Dining Facility such an opportunity would present itself.
The Medal of Honor is the highest decoration that a service member can receive. According to the Medal of Honor Historical Society there have been 3,519 Medals of Honor awarded to service members.
Upon entering the Aragon Dining Facility, Jenkins grabbed his lunch and went into a room filled with Airmen who noticed his medal and had lunch with them. He explained to the Airmen what it was like when he served and that if a war the scale of Vietnam occurs, they would be the ones up front in battle like he was.
“I really enjoy traveling around the world meeting soldiers,” said Jenkins. “I get to tell them what it was like when I served.”
He told the Airmen the story of how he ended up fighting in Vietnam and what he did to earn the medal. When he finished speaking, he received a standing ovation and he shook everyone’s hand and wished them well.
On Jan. 6, 1969, Jenkins was serving as a private in Alpha Company, 2d Battalion, 39th Infantry Regiment, 9th Infantry Division.
“I was in the hospital getting an Article 15 and being busted to private,” Jenkins said. “The next day I was recommended for the Medal of Honor and promoted to staff sergeant,” said Jenkins.
During a firefight that night in Kien Phong Province, Republic of Vietnam, Jenkins repeatedly exposed himself to hostile fire to engage the enemy, resupply his ammunition and obtain new weapons. Despite being wounded himself, he made several trips through intense fire to rescue other wounded soldiers.
“I had to crawl around the dead and wounded to find ammunition to defend myself,” said Jenkins. “I had been shot numerous times and had shrapnel in me.”
For his actions during that battle, Jenkins was promoted to staff sergeant and received the Medal of Honor in March, 1971.
Jenkins served in the Army for 19 months before he was honorably discharged as staff sergeant. He currently serves on tour as a guest speaker with The Wounded Warrior Project.