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Obama Honors Vietnam War Era Army Unit

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U.S. President Barack Obama has honored a group of American Vietnam War veterans - members of an Army squadron who risked their lives to save about 100 fellow soldiers during the war.

Forty years after their heroic acts in the jungles of Vietnam, the men of Alpha Troop were welcomed to the White House.

"Now, these men might be a little bit older, a little bit grayer," said President Obama. "But make no mistake - these soldiers define the meaning of bravery and heroism."

President Obama presided at a ceremony where Alpha Troop, First Squadron, 11th Armored Calvary was awarded the nation's highest honor for a military unit - the Presidential Unit Citation.

With members of Alpha Troop looking on in the White House Rose Garden, the president told their story.

It is a story of a group of soldiers of different colors and creeds. They were young recruits new to the war, and the battle hardened men who led them. While on patrol in the jungles of Vietnam, the president said, they heard of another unit in danger.

"Charlie Company, from the 1st Calvary Division, had stumbled upon a massive underground bunker of North Vietnamese troops," said Mr. Obama. "A hundred Americans were facing some 400 enemy fighters."

The 200 men of Alpha Troop moved in.

"With no roads to speak of, they plowed their tanks and armored vehicles through the thick jungle, smashing a path through bamboo and underbrush, mile after mile, risking ambush and landmines every step of the way, and finally emerging from the jungle to the rescue - what one member of Charlie Company called 'a miracle.'" he said.

The president said it was not a battle that changed the course of the war, but it was an example of what soldiers do - not only for their country, but for each other.

He said years after this unpopular war ended, America must remember these deeds, and the men and women who served their nation.

"Our Vietnam vets answered their country's call and served with honor," said President Obama. "But one of the saddest episodes in American history was the fact that these vets were often shunned and neglected, even demonized when they came home. That was a national disgrace. And on days such as this, we resolve to never let it happen again."

The president said Americans should always show their troops the respect they deserve - even if they disagree with their mission. He said that courtesy should extend to veterans - whether they left active service decades ago or days ago.