Robert McDonough ’06 receives Germany's highest medal of honor
by MaryAlice Bitts
May 3, 2010
U.S. Army pilot Robert McDonough '06 (second from left) poses with members of his unit. McDonough was among the first non-German soldiers to receive Germany's highest medal of honor.
Blackhawk helicopter pilot Robert McDonough ’06 was among 14 American soldiers who were recently decorated with the German government’s highest medal of honor.
McDonough and fellow members of the 5th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment, 12th Combat Aviation Brigade helicopter unit, were granted Germany's Gold Cross for valor in recognition of their heroic rescue of wounded German soldiers during a conflict last month in northern Afghanistan.
The bestowing marks the first time the German government has awarded the medal to non-German soldiers.
Grace under fire
According to the U.S. military publication Stars and Stripes, members of the American battalion had maneuvered their helicopters through heavy fire April 2 to rescue members of Germany’s Parachute Battalion 373, who had been ambushed by the Taliban during a routine mission. McDonough, a U.S. Army captain and Delaware native who earned a history degree as an ROTC student at Dickinson, had helped lead the rescue effort.
“This Dickinsonian, one of our own, is an American hero who merits widest recognition and commendation,” asserted Sherwood “Woody” Goldberg ’63, a U.S. Military Academy faculty member and Vietnam-War veteran.
Rising to the occasion
McDonough and his unit will receive the medals personally later this month. Meanwhile, Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, accepted the Gold Crosses on behalf of the soldiers last month in Berlin, and Germany’s secretary of defense, Christian Schmidt, recognized the American soldiers’ families during a public ceremony on April 29.
Timothy Kuppler ’07, a first lieutenant deployed in Afghanistan who befriended McDonough while both were history majors and ROTC students at Dickinson, wrote in a recent e-mail that he is very proud of McDonough’s bravery and skill in the face of adversity. Fellow ROTC alumnus President William G. Durden ’71 noted that Dickinsonians far and wide can share in Kuppler's sense of pride.
“We are honored as an institution to be part of the process of preparing Capt. Robert McDonough for the moment when he needed to perform for Germany,” Durden said.