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June 18, 2021

Ann Arbor , MI — The VA medical center in Ann Arbor was recognized as the LTC Charles S. Kettles VA Medical Center in a renaming ceremony on Friday, commemorating the life of Ypsilanti native and Army Veteran Charles Kettles.

Kettles, a UH-1D “Huey” helicopter pilot in the Vietnam War, flew his helicopter to evacuate soldiers engaged in an intense firefight with the North Vietnamese Army on May 15, 1967. His helicopter sustained major damage from mortar and small arms fire making the daring rescue. Kettles was then able to guide the damaged Huey back to safety with the soldiers on board.

For his actions that day, Lieutenant Colonel Kettles was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in 2016. Legislation passed in December 2020 officially renamed the hospital.

“We’re honored to rename this hospital after someone who defined themselves by their selfless sacrifice to others,” said Dr. Ginny Creasman, director of the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System. “LTC Kettles said he was giving it his best that day in Vietnam. That’s what we strive for everyday serving our Veterans in southeast Michigan and northwest Ohio.”

“While serving in Vietnam, Lieutenant Colonel Kettles heroically put his own life on the line to ensure that his fellow servicemembers made it back home. This unwavering patriotism exemplifies the values of honor and service that makes our country’s military the finest in the world,” said Senator Gary Peters, a former Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve and a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “I’m proud to have helped enact legislation that recognizes Lieutenant Colonel Kettles’ bravery and formally renames the Ann Arbor VA hospital in his honor.”

“LTC Kettles went above and beyond the call of duty, flying into enemy fire to save 44 fellow servicemembers during the Vietnam War,” said Rep. Debbie Dingell. “After we led Congressional legislation to waive time limitations for a Medal of Honor for LTC Kettles, President Obama awarded him the Medal of Honor in 2016. I was proud to again honor LTC Kettles by renaming the VA Ann Arbor Medical Center for Ypsi’s very own hometown hero. LTC Kettles once said to me, ‘44 names are not listed on the memorial in Washington, DC and that’s what means something to me – not a medal.’ LTC Kettles’ story and the VAMC bearing his name will educate generations to come about the importance of courage, valor, compassion, selflessness, and public service.”

Kettles remained deeply involved with Veterans at the VA Ann Arbor Medical Center and Veteran Service Organizations in southeastern Michigan until his death in January 2019.

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