OKFB Policyholder Recognized with Medal of Honor

OKFB Insurance learned of longtime policyholder Dwight Birdwell’s story from his insurance agent, Rick Roberts. We share his story in honor of his service and in memory of countless other service men and women who sacrificed their lives and safety to create a better world.

On January 31, 1968, Dwight Birdwell found himself fixed upon a disabled tank. There was enemy fire coming from seemingly all sides outside Tan Son Nhut, an air base outside of Saigon, South Vietnam. This was a far cry from the hay fields of Bell, Oklahoma where Dwight had spent his childhood learning to farm from his father and honoring his Cherokee heritage and culture. On July 5, 2022, Dwight received the Medal of Honor for his bravery and heroic efforts during his service in Korea and Vietnam.

Dwight enlisted in the army in 1966 after graduating high school. Shortly thereafter, he was sent to Korea after attending training at Fort Knox, Kentucky. Eventually, Dwight found himself as a member of the 4th Cavalry Regiment, 25th Division, popularly known as Three-Quarter Horse.

On that fateful day in January, they ordered Dwight’s Troop C to help secure the Tan Son Nhut Air Base from enemy troops. After the lead tank had taken intense fire and become inoperable, Dwight quickly moved into action. He used what defense systems were left on the tank and to protect his fellow soldiers from the barrage of bullets, rockets and grenade fire. After his tank commander was shot, Dwight helped move him to safety. He began to fire the .50-caliber machine gun while also using the 90mm main gun to push enemy forces back. Dwight attributes some of his reaction to his childhood experiences.

“Growing up on a farm you learn to adapt to situations quickly,” said Dwight. “That—and I’ll make no bone about it—I owe the credit to God.”

After exhausting the 90mm gun and machine gun, Dwight moved to a wounded helicopter nearby. He was still firing his M-16 rifle in an effort to collect two M60 machine guns and ammunition that were aboard the helicopter. Afterward, he helped other wounded soldiers and remounted the tank with one of his M60s. He continued to fire back on the enemy. Despite sustaining many injuries to his neck, chest and arms, Dwight refused medical attention so he and his fellow soldiers could continue their defense.

The soldiers secured the air base after the events of that day. They honored Dwight with a Silver Star for his efforts. He would go on to earn two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star Medal for meritorious service during his time in Vietnam. He would also earn a second Silver Star for his bravery in rescuing more Americans who became stranded in a battle zone during a conflict on July 4, 1968.

Although many years have passed since his time in Korea and Vietnam, Dwight still vividly remembers the rice fields and the people who farmed them.

“During my time in Vietnam, I developed an immense respect for the local farming community,” said Dwight. “The people were trying to provide for their families and villages and being an Oklahoma farm kid, I could relate.”

After returning stateside in 1968, Dwight married and started a family. He earned his law degree from the University of Oklahoma in 1976 and has enjoyed a fascinating career. His career led him to serve on the Judicial Appeal Tribunal (Supreme Court) of the Cherokee Nation.

After a decades-long campaign by Vietnam Army General Glenn Otis to have Dwight’s Silver Star upgraded, Dwight received the Medal of Honor from President Joe Biden in the summer of 2022. Dwight Birdwell is the 33rd Native American to earn the Medal of Honor.

At OKFB, we are proud to know and help such an extraordinary individual and applaud his service to our country. Congratulations, Dwight!