President Biden awards 2 Hawaii veterans the nation’s highest military honor

Two Hawaii veterans have received the military’s highest honor for their service and bravery during the Vietnam War.
Published: Jul. 5, 2022 at 1:08 PM HST|Updated: Jul. 5, 2022 at 1:15 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Two Hawaii veterans have received the military’s highest honor for their service and bravery during the Vietnam War. They were among four veterans who received the Medal of Honor in a White House ceremony Tuesday.

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz said Staff Sgt. Edward N. Kaneshiro, who died in 1967, and Spc. Dennis M. Fujii were selected for the Medal of Honor as the military continues to review the records of soldiers previously overlooked for awards due to bigotry.

Kaneshiro was born in Honolulu and attended Leilehua High School in Wahiawa. He enlisted into the Army on April 2, 1959.

He was assigned to Company C, 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division, at Schofield Barracks before heading overseas to join others in non-combative service in Japan and South Korea.

After many assignments and promotions, Kaneshiro was deployed to Vietnam as a squad leader.

In Dec. 1966, Kaneshiro and his squad were approached by an ambush of North Vietnamese troops while in Kim Son Valley. Kaneshiro then ordered them to take cover, while he advanced alone towards the enemy.

President Joe Biden presents the Medal of Honor to Staff Sgt. Edward Kaneshiro for his actions...
President Joe Biden presents the Medal of Honor to Staff Sgt. Edward Kaneshiro for his actions on Dec. 1, 1966, during the Vietnam War, as his son John Kaneshiro accepts the posthumous recognition during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House, Tuesday, July 5, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)(Evan Vucci | AP)

He hurled grenades at the enemy, allowing his squad to collect their dead and withdraw from the fight.

“According to an eyewitness account of the battle, Kaneshiro’s bravery single handedly clearing the trench averted what might have been a disaster for the whole platoon,” President Biden said.

Kaneshiro had a wife and five children. One of his sons, John Kaneshiro, accepted the Medal of Honor on his behalf.

“Today his memory lives on with the lives he saved, and the legend of his fearlessness,” Biden said.

Fujii was born in Hanapepe, Kauai, and enlisted into the Army in 1967. It was then that he worked towards his high school diploma while serving. He was deployed to Vietnam in 1968, and was assigned to the 2nd battalion, 35th Infantry, 4th Infantry Division.

In his second tour of Vietnam, Fujii was serving as a medevac UH-1 helicopter crew chief with the 237th Medical Detachment, 61st Medical Battalion, 67th Medical Group.

While doing so, his helicopter was forced to crash land after becoming a target. In an attempt to save others, Fujii “waved off the helicopter,” making him the only remaining American soldier on the soil at that time.

Biden recounted how Fujii stayed behind and attempted to help the wounded Vietnamese allies on the field.

He also helped communicate with leaders while serving as surveillance on the enemy.

He returned to Hawaii in 1971, where he was transferred to the Hawaii Army National Guard and the Pacific Army Reserve. Later in life, he worked as a technician at the Johnston Atoll Wildlife Refuge Island.

Fujii has received two Purple Hearts, one Silver Star and the Distinguished Service Cross.

Now he holds the nation’s highest military honor.

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