Keesler street named for Vietnam War hero

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - A man who trained at Keesler Air Force Base in 1952, and lost his life in 1968 during the height of the Vietnam War was honored again Monday. A street on the base was named in honor of Chief Master Sergeant Richard Etchberger.

Etchberger lost his life saving others at a remote radar location called Lima Site 85 when it came under attack from North Vietnamese soldiers.

"He held off the enemy for a good three hours, putting himself between the enemy and his men while at the same time calling the rescue forces in," Retired Air Force Col. Joseph Panza said. "He did a very, very heroic job."

That job will be remembered forever, with the unveiling of this street sign, and a granite marker in his name.

"Today, we chose to recognize one very appropriately who came through school here, and learned his basic airmanship skills here and his basic technical skills here and then applied them in combat in the worst possible situation you can imagine," Keesler Commander Brig. General Patrick Higby said.

Etchberger's son, Cory, was filled with emotion and pride over his father's lasting legacy.

"To know that airman are going to walk by this street every time they go to training and they'll be reminded of dad, but also reminded of what it really means to be an airman," Cory Etchberger said.

Because of the classified nature of his mission and the political times back in 1968, Etchberger never received the Medal of Honor until 42 years later, in 2010 at the White House. But family and friends say better late than never.

"It is what it is," Etchberger said. "The fact that he was honored with the Medal of Honor in September of 2010, this honor now occurs, and it doesn't matter, really matter when it happens. It just matters if it happens."

What matters most is Etchberger's love of duty and country will never be forgotten.

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