MIAMISBURG, Ohio (WKEF) -- This Veterans Day, Dayton 24/7 Now wants to say thank you to all of those who have sacrificed their lives in order to keep us safe and free.
Local veteran, Sgt. Gary Lee McKiddy, paid the ultimate sacrifice for our country while fighting in the Vietnam War. Now, his family and a man whose life he saved, are working to get him the nation’s highest military honor: the Medal of Honor.
You may remember the story of McKiddy from our previous coverage of his loved ones working with both Senators JD Vance and Sherrod Brown to finally get McKiddy the Medal of Honor, 53 years after it was originally promised to him.
McKiddy is a Miamisburg native, now known for his bravery and courage during the Vietnam War.
However, back then in late 1960, he was known for his big smile and kind personality.
"Gary walked in, had a big smile on his face. He had a lot of personality and just reached out to me, threw his hand out and said 'Hey I'm Gary McKiddy, I play the guitar too' and we just instantly hit it off,” said Sgt. James Skaggs.
Skaggs was McKiddy's best friend in Vietnam.
They both flew in scout helicopters. McKiddy did that full time and Skaggs switched to that job after being a radio telephone operator.
"Gary and I became a team, I always flew with him. I didn't fly with anybody else,” Skaggs said.
On May 6, 1970, McKiddy and Skaggs were assigned to fly into Cambodia together. The night before, Skaggs was on guard duty and went to check on his friend.
"So Gary that night when I checked on him, he was a little off. I had never seen him like this before, and I honestly think he had some sort of a premonition," Skaggs said.
That next day, on May 6, their helicopter came under intense enemy fire, being hit several times and ultimately causing the helicopter to crash.
When Skaggs woke up, he was laying on the jungle floor and eventually two medics came to his rescue.
"I grabbed one of them by the wrist and I said 'I've got two crewmen over here, you've gotta find them,' so he ran over to where the fire was and it had burned down and he came back and shook his head and said 'no' so I knew what that meant, that they were gone,” Skaggs said.
Later it was discovered that McKiddy had pulled Skaggs out of the helicopter and dragged him to safety.
"So they put together this scenario that Gary had probably jumped or gotten tossed when we hit and he came up to the helicopter and got me out, drug me away, and went back into the helicopter for the pilot and and it blew up and killed them both and I said well, that makes sense to me,” Skaggs said.
"He ran back into a fiery inferno where the ammunition is just shooting off at random risking his own life to get his buddy Jim, and we're glad he did, Jimmy, you are part of the family,” said Rick McKiddy, Gary McKiddy’s brother.
53 years after that day, Skaggs and the McKiddy family have been working to get him the military's highest honor.
"Once Gary receives the medal of honor, it's not about him, it's reminding everybody that these stories are real and families are carrying the burden through their whole life of losing a loved one due to this type of situation,” said Rick McKiddy.
In addition to Senators Vance and Brown, two Michigan senators are now helping the McKiddy family finally get Gary the honor that he deserves.
If you head to historicalmiamisburg.org and click on the Sgt. Gary Lee McKiddy tab, you can find a short letter that you can send to your local representative, asking them to assist in getting this hero the military's highest honor.