Medal of Honor recipient, Donald Everett Ballard, was honored in the June 7 ceremony at Gardner Cemetery, hosted by the American Legion Post 19.
Ballard was born on Dec 5, 1945 in Kansas City, Mo. In his youth, he aspired to become a dentist in the Navy. He enlisted in 1965, completing recruit training and Hospital Corps School. His plans of becoming a dentist were replaced by a need to become a hospital corpsman with the Marine Corps. After his decision, he completed Field Medical Service School.
He was sent to the Quang Tri province in South Vietnam, to serve in the M company, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division. He served as Navy Corpsman.
May 16, 1968 would be the day Ballard was pushed beyond duty into heroic territory.
He was treating two marines suffering from heat exhaustion. He had returned back to his rifle company, when a sudden and shocking attack from a North Vietnamese Army unit. Ballard had the courage to fight his was through the fire and reach a wounded Marine. This is a brave feat in itself, but Ballard would prove to have so much more courage in him.
As he was treating the Marine, a grenade landed near him, the marine, and four other men. With so little time before the grenade would explode, someone had to act. That man was Ballard, who immediately threw himself over the grenade. That day, Ballard would have faced death for his fellow man. But, fate had intervened, the grenade was defective. Ballard quickly threw it out of harm’s way. He continued to treat the wounded marines around him.
This event made Ballard a hero,
He was even offered a direct commission to be an active duty Army officer by General Westmoreland, while switching over to the army. Ballard turned it down. He would serve again with great bravery in the Kansas Army Guard in 1970. He became an ambulance platoon leader and company commander. He created and led the Medical Detachment 5’, a unit that performs medicals in the field, rather than transporting the wounded elsewhere.
On April 5, 1998, Ballard was promoted to colonel by Major General James F. Reuger. Before he retired in 2000, he served Special Assistant to the Adjutant General. He was put into the National Guard Hall of Fame in 2001. He is the only Kansas Guardsman to receive a Medal of Honor. He also won the Purple Heart and the Navy Combat Action Ribbon. His memorial statue is at the National Medical War Memorial in Kansas City.
Donald Everett Ballard is one man, who took bravery one step beyond and his services are greatly appreciated.