Governance & Membership
President's Message - September 2022
OBA Member Awarded Congressional Medal of Honor
By Jim Hicks
Oklahoma City lawyer Dwight Birdwell was presented with the Medal of Honor by President Joe Biden on July 5 in a White House ceremony. Mr. Birdwell’s wife, Virginia, and other family and friends were in attendance. He received the award for his service with Troop C, 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry, 25th Infantry Division in Vietnam. The Medal of Honor is the highest and most prestigious military award a servicemember can receive. It is awarded to members of the U.S. armed forces who distinguish themselves conspicuously by valor, gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of their own lives above and beyond the call of duty, and it is normally presented by the president.
Mr. Birdwell’s citation recounts his heroism during a battle that took place at the Tan Son Nhut Airbase near Saigon on Jan. 31, 1968. Troop C was the first American ground unit from outside the airbase to respond to the attack. When Mr. Birdwell’s tank commander was seriously wounded, he took command and placed intense fire on the attacking enemy forces until his ammunition was expended. He then retrieved a machine gun from a downed American helicopter and drove back the attackers, creating a place of safety for the injured men behind the tank. With disregard for his own safety, he ran through a hail of enemy fire to get more ammunition for his men from other damaged vehicles. Despite sustaining injuries from shrapnel in his face, hands and arms, he remained on the battlefield until reinforcements arrived. At the time, Mr. Birdwell received the Silver Star for outstanding heroism on the battlefield.
On the night of July 4, 1968, he again risked his life to rescue more Americans, some of them wounded, who were stranded in a battle zone in an enemy-occupied village. Seeing a damaged Army personnel carrier, he exposed himself to heavy enemy fire while loading all the wounded and evacuating them to safety. He then went back into the village to rescue more Americans, for which he was awarded his second Silver Star for bravery.
He served in the U.S. Army for three years, earning two Purple Hearts and two Silver Medals, one of which was upgraded to the Medal of Honor. Mr. Birdwell attended Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, followed by the OU College of Law, graduating in 1976. He is also a member of the Cherokee Nation and served on the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court for 12 years. His practice includes representing clients in oil and gas, probate and real estate matters.
In a July 5 editorial, the Tahlequah Daily Press noted that Mr. Birdwell’s heroism has long been known by those around him, but he’s a humble man and not one to boast about how he saved so many lives while he was seriously injured himself. But his friends, as well as President Biden, had no problem giving credit where it’s due. Said the president, “When he was ordered to load onto the medevac helicopter, he complied – this I find amazing – only to crawl right back off the other side and to keep on fighting.” The Stilwell Democrat Journal published a comprehensive feature on Mr. Birdwell when he learned he’d be receiving the honor. And the July 15 Cherokee Phoenix published a front-page article on the events at the White House awards ceremony.
We can all be proud of our fellow member for receiving this prestigious honor. OBA members will have the privilege of hearing from Mr. Birdwell during this year’s Annual Meeting, where he will serve as a guest of honor and speaker during our traditional Friday morning Delegates Breakfast. Make plans to join us at the new Oklahoma City Convention Center this Nov. 2-4. Breakfast tickets will go fast, so don’t miss this opportunity to hear from a true American hero!
President Hicks practices in Tulsa.
Originally published in the Oklahoma Bar Journal – OBJ 93 Vol 7 (September 2022).