Joe Biden has sparked backlash after he hastily exited a Medal of Honor ceremony at the White House, leaving a celebrated war hero awkwardly alone on stage. The President, 80, quickly made his way out of the East Room after awarding the nation’s highest military honor to Larry Taylor, 81, a retired Army Captain celebrated for his heroics during the Vietnam War.
But while Taylor (pictured left) shed a tear as the medal was pinned to his lapel, Biden appeared less moved by the moment as he was reportedly already heading out of the door before the closing benediction was read. While many have reacted with fury, some have speculated that the commander-in-chief was trying to give the veteran the spotlight, leading to an awkward moment where Taylor was left alone on stage.
The gaffe came after Biden was earlier criticized for removing his mask moments before greeting Taylor, despite First Lady Jill Biden testing positive for Covid-19 the day before. Biden’s quick getaway is the latest in a long line of incidents that have led people to brand him disrespectful to the troops, including an infamous moment where he repeatedly checked his watch during a ceremony honoring soldiers killed in an ISIS-K self murder bombing in Kabul, Afghanistan in 2021. Biden was awarding Taylor, a retired Army Captain, for his bravery during the Vietnam War, where he risked his life for his comrades in the jungle in June 1968.
On the night of June 18, 1968, Taylor (pictured) took off in his attack helicopter to rescue four men on a long-range reconnaissance team that had become surrounded and was in danger of being overrun by enemy troops. He had to figure out a way to get them out, otherwise ‘they wouldn’t make it.’ David Hill, one of the men Taylor saved that night, said Taylor’s actions were what ‘we now call thinking outside the box.’ Hill and the three others were on a night mission to track the movement of enemy troops in a village near the Saigon River when they were found by North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops. An intense firefight ensued and soon they were running out of ammunition. They radioed for help.
Taylor flew off in his attack helicopter, arriving just minutes later at the site northeast of what at the time was Saigon, since renamed Ho Chi Minh City. Taylor said the first problem with getting to the trapped soldiers was poor visibility. ‘It’s difficult to support you because I can’t see you and I can’t see the bad guys. I’m afraid if I start throwing some rockets out here, I’m going to kill one of you all,’ he recalled telling them over the radio. He asked the patrol team to send up some flares to mark their location in the dark. Taylor and a pilot in an accompanying helicopter started firing their ships’ Miniguns and aerial rockets at the enemy, making low-level attack runs and braving intense ground fire for about half an hour.
The two American helicopters attacked the enemy troops, using all their rockets and nearly 16,000 machine-gun rounds. But with both helicopters nearly out of ammunition and with the enemy continuing to advance, Taylor surveyed the team’s intended escape route to a point near the river and concluded that the men would be overrun if they tried to get there. He had to think of something else. Now running low on fuel and with the reconnaissance team also nearly out of ammunition, Taylor directed his wingman to fire the rounds left in his Minigun along the team’s eastern flank and then head back to base camp, while Taylor fired his remaining rounds on the western flank.
He used the helicopter’s landing lights to distract the enemy, buying time for the patrol team to head south and east toward a different extraction point he had identified. After they arrived, Taylor landed under heavy enemy fire and at great personal risk. The four team members rushed toward the helicopter and clung to the exterior – it only had two seats – and Taylor whisked them away to safety. He was on the ground for about 10 seconds. ‘I finally just flew up behind them and sat down on the ground,’ Taylor, now 81, explained during an interview. ‘They turned around and jumped on the aircraft. A couple were sitting on the skids. One was sitting on the rocket pods, and I don’t know where the other one was, but they beat on the side of the ship twice, which meant haul ass. And we did!’ What Taylor did that night had never before been attempted, the Army said.
Taylor basically concocted the plan as he flew along. ‘There’s nothing in the book that says how to do that and I think about 90 percent of flying a helicopter in Vietnam was making it up as you go along,’ he said. ‘Nobody could criticize you cause they couldn’t do any better than you did and they didn’t know what you were doing anyway.’ Taylor said he flew hundreds of combat missions in UH-1 and Cobra helicopters during a year’s deployment in Vietnam. ‘We never lost a man,’ he said. ‘You just do whatever is expedient and do whatever to save the lives of the people you’re trying to rescue,’ he said. Taylor was engaged by enemy fire at least 340 times and was forced down five times, according to the Army. He received scores of combat decorations, including the Silver Star, a Bronze Star and two Distinguished Flying Crosses.
Taylor left Vietnam in August 1968, a couple months after that flight. He was released from active duty in August 1970, having attained the rank of captain, and was discharged from the Army Reserve in October 1973. He later ran a roofing and sheet metal company in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He and his wife, Toni, live in Signal Mountain, Tennessee. Taylor is a native of the St. Elmo community in the Volunteer State. In a 2021 interview with News Channel 9, Taylor explained that he was in the ROTC program during his time in college prior to entering the army. Hill said he and supporters of Taylor were astonished to learn decades after that harrowing night that their hero had not been awarded a Medal of Honor. Hill is the only other surviving member of the team who is still living.
But while Taylor was full of emotion as he wiped away a tear when the medal was pinned to his lapel, Biden appeared less moved by the moment. His quick exit was condemned by military veterans following the ceremony, who argued that he showed a brazen lack of respect for the veteran. ‘Pardon my French… But what a [Expletive] idiot,’ said former Navy SEAL Shawn Ryan. ‘The continuous lack of respect Biden has for anyone is appalling.’ Ryan, a podcast host, also noted Biden’s recent appearance in wildfire-hit Hawaii as evidence of his apparent lack of respect. The incident saw the president initially slammed for ‘no commenting’ on the crisis, before he gave a rambling speech and jetted off for a vacation in Lake Tahoe.
His most recent show of contempt has brought a wave of fury from military supporters online, with one daughter of a deceased colonel lying at Arlington Cemetery condemning him for ‘leaving (Taylor) alone on the stage.’ ‘He hates our military,’ she concluded. ‘What is it with Biden? He keeps on showing disrespect to our men and women in uniform,’ said another stunned viewer. While many reacted with anger, Texas Congressman Wesley Hunt, an army veteran, made light of the apparent disrespect by noting Biden’s previous blunder at the Afghanistan ceremony in 2021, saying: ‘At least he didn’t check his watch this time.’
Earlier in the ceremony, Biden raised eyebrows when he removed his face mask while standing next to the 81-year-old war hero despite his wife Jill testing positive for Covid-19 the day before. The president entered the room wearing a black face mask, but decided to remove it before the ceremony got underway. He then remained mask-less for several minutes as he stood beside Taylor. The president remains negative after being tested on Monday night and Tuesday morning and shows no symptoms. Before the event, the White House said he would follow CDC guidelines, as press secretary Karine Hean-Pierre said he would only remove it when ‘sufficiently’ distanced from others.
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