Master Sergeant Gary Gordon
August 30, 1960 – October 3, 1993
Gary Gordon was a native of Lincoln, ME. When he was 11 years old, he checked out the Medal of Honor Pamphlet from the Lincoln Memorial Library. He read General Douglas MacArthur’s words in this pamphlet, “your guidepost stands out like a 10-fold beacon in the night: Duty. Honor. Country.” Gordon built his way of life around this doctrine.
Gordon aspired to a life he couldn’t achieve in Lincoln, and in 1978, he enlisted in the Army. Within a year he had qualified for the Army’s Special Forces. In his phone calls home, he expressed his excitement about learning parachuting, mountaineering, and weaponry in his Green Beret classes. By the late 80s, he was a commando for Delta Force, a unit organized in 1977 to capture terrorists, rescue hostages, and execute pinpoint assaults.
Gordon was awarded the Medal of Honor for sacrificing his life while rescuing a downed helicopter crew in Mogadishu, Somalia on October 3, 1993. It was supposed to be a swift and clean mission. U.N. relief efforts to distribute food to the starving people of that country were being hampered by guerrilla ambushes and the US planned to aid the UN in its humanitarian mission. Army Rangers in 15 helicopters, including six Black Hawk troop-carrying helicopters, were to fly into southern Mogadishu in the hope of capturing the key lieutenants of Somali warlord Mohammed Farrah Aidid.
The first part of the mission went well. They caught the Somalis by surprise and captured 24 of Aidid’s men by 4pm. 20 minutes later, the lead Black Hawk helicopter was shot down by a rocket-propelled grenade three blocks to the north. Gordon, a sniper-team leader, and his comrades began firing from their helicopter to keep the advancing Somalis from swarming the crash site. Shortly after, word came that another helicopter piloted by Chief Officer Michael Durrant had been shot down 2 miles from the first crash site.
After three requests, Gordon and Sergeant First Class Randy Shughart were granted permission to rescue the crew of the downed helicopter, going down ropes from their helicopter into the midst of a gunfight. The two fought their way through a maze of shanties and shacks with only sniper rifles and pistols. When they reached the crash site, they pulled the three badly wounded crew members and pilot from the wreckage and established a perimeter. Gordon defended the site, killing an undetermined number of attackers until he depleted his ammunition. He then went back to the wreckage to recover some of the crew’s weapons and ammunition. He gave pilot Michael Durant, whose back and one leg were broken, a weapon and radioed for help. Gordon continued fighting until his team member was down and he had exhausted his ammunition. He went back to the wreckage for one last rifle, which he gave to Durant with the words "good luck.” Gordon fought until he was fatally wounded. The crash site was overrun by the angry and brutally violent mob. Durant, the only survivor, was beaten, taken prisoner for 11 days, and then released.
In May 1994, both Gordon and Shughart posthumously received the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military award, “for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty,” making them the first recipients of the medal since the Vietnam War.
At a memorial event in 1995, Durant said, “I was alive because Gary and Randy had removed me from that cockpit and had placed me where I could defend myself and the crash site. I was alive because they had volunteered to go into that dusty neighborhood alone and lightly armed to help fallen comrades in a desperate situation. They volunteered for an impossible mission in order to help fellow soldiers that they didn’t even know. I’ve heard it said that uncommon valor was common that day, but I can tell you that what Gary Gordon did was not common. His actions were the bravest that I’ve ever witnessed and truly define ‘above and beyond the call of duty.’”