Medal of Honor recipient Ed Freeman died in Aug. 20. Freeman and fellow U.S. Army aviator Bruce Crandall, years after the fact, were honored with the Medal of Honor for their actions at Landing Zone X-Ray during the Battle of Ia Drang in Vietnam in November 1965. They flew 14 missions into that LZ under intense enemy fire to rescue and resupply 1st Cavalry Div. troops, even after the LZ had been closed. They evacuated 70 casualties. Witnesses said their actions on the battle’s first day, Nov. 14, kept the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, resupplied and reinforced, and gave wounded soldiers a chance at life.
At Freeman’s funeral in Boise, Idaho, Crandall remembered his friend in this way:
"This is one of the hardest tasks I have ever been given, but I thank the Freeman family for giving me this honor…
"This past evening, I sat alone and tried to write this eulogy for our great and beloved friend. My eyes filled with tears as I recalled what he meant to all of us, but especially to me. I was in such a state of sadness I was unable to write. At that time, I closed my eyes and almost immediately felt the presence of Big Ed standing alongside of me. He was vigorously shaking his long, boney finger in my face and telling me, ‘Get over it, Snake. I don’t want sadness and grief to be what you leave with my family and friends.’ He went on to say, ‘I will not object if you embellish our stories a bit as that is to be expected, since I would do the same for you if I were in your place.’
"Therefore, I will follow Ed’s guidance, as I have always tried to do! I will tell you some, but not all, of the things I enjoy recalling most about the things Ed and I shared together during our 55+-year friendship. I do so with one of Ed’s favorite warnings: ‘Some of these stories are absolutely true!’
"Whenever Ed was given a task, no matter how hard, he would always say he could do it! Then he would go out and find a way to get it done. Not always too successfully and not always by the rules. If a regulation could be read in two ways, you could always rely on Ed to read it a third!
"He was the best "midnight requisition" pilot in the Cavalry. Ed was the first to recognize and take advantage of the fact that Army, Air Force and Navy supply depots within flying distance with our Hueys were guarded only from the ground. He hated seeing items needed by our troops sitting there unused. His night training missions resulted in a major improvement to the quality of life of our troops!
"I will give you some examples of Ed’s activities that I remember most:
Ed never seemed to get bothered or excited about the enemy firing at him. I never understood this, because their firing always bothered and excited me!
The one time he admitted I was the best Huey pilot (big lie brought on by an excess of morphine).
Watching Big Ed, with such pride, as President Bush placed the Medal of Honor around his neck after Ed’s refusal to accept the award from President Clinton because none of his comrades could be there.
"Every commander was lucky to have one Ed Freeman in his unit. He was a great aviator in all aircraft, he had a natural talent and could fly the box the aircraft came in if necessary. It also helped that he was one of the two best helicopter pilots in the world. Flew in deserts of Iran, jungles and mountains of South and Central America and the jungles of Vietnam.
"We military types know that a ‘good soldier’ never volunteers for anything. Thank God, Ed was so much more than just a ‘good soldier!’ He always volunteered for the toughest and most dangerous missions.
"Ed’s death will have no impact on his unmatched record of service to his country and fellow man. He was a soldier’s soldier. His history and legacy will live on as long as there is a military and as long as we celebrate our veteran’s contributions to the freedom and liberty we honor and hold dear. Ed’s combat record stands alone. He has truly set the standard for ‘military service’ to our nation. Many future generations of Americans will likely never know that their very existence is due to his heroism and love for his fellow soldiers and his devotion to country and duty. He was absolutely fearless in support of his ‘brothers in combat,’ whether he personally knew them or not. Duty, to Ed, was not just a word but also a way of life.
"He has not only earned the respect of those of us that had the privilege of serving with him but also all of those who serve now and will serve in the future. His name is truly a legend in Army aviation and in all the military.
"How do I express how important Ed has been to all of us and how each of us has been individually impacted upon by his life? How do I express not only my respect but also love for him for over half a century? How do I express that he will always be with me as long as I live and breath? What I do know is that Big Ed is gone from this Earth, but I also am absolutely certain that he will always be here in our hearts and minds.
"I believe that someday I will be with Ed again and we will lovingly hug each other and then quickly renew our debate as to who was truly the "second" best helicopter pilot during our time on Earth…
"Ed was a great soldier, parent, citizen and friend. He will never be forgotten.