Medal of Honor Recipient

PFC Kenneth Kays
Co. D 1/506

mohkays.gifFor conspicuous gallantry intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Pfc. (then Pvt.) Kays distinguished himself while serving as a medical aidman with Company D, 1st Battalion, 101st Airborne Division near Fire Support Base Maureen. A heavily armed force of enemy sappers and infantrymen assaulted Company D's night defensive position, wounding and killing a number of its members. Disregarding the intense enemy fire and ground assault, Pfc. Kays began moving toward the perimeter to assist his fallen comrades. In doing so he became the target of concentrated enemy fire and explosive charges, 1 of which severed the lower portion of his left leg. After applying a tourniquet to his leg, Pfc. Kays moved to the fire-swept perimeter, administered medical aid to 1 of the wounded, and helped move him to an area of relative safety. Despite his severe wound and excruciating pain, Pfc. Kays returned to the perimeter in search of other wounded men. He treated another wounded comrade, and, using his own body as a shield against enemy bullets and fragments, moved him to safety. Although weakened from a great loss of blood, Pfc. Kays resumed his heroic lifesaving efforts by moving beyond the company's perimeter into enemy held territory to treat a wounded American lying there. Only after his fellow wounded soldiers had been treated and evacuated did Pfc. Kays allow his own wounds to be treated. These courageous acts by Pfc. Kays resulted in the saving of numerous lives and inspired others in his company to repel the enemy. Pfc. Kays' heroism at the risk of his life are in keeping with the highest traditions of the service and reflect great credit on him, his unit, and the U.S. Army.


Memorial Dedication

Fairfield Illinois | May 5, 2007

On May 5, 2007 the town of Fairfield Illinois dedicated a memorial to Kenny Kays. Friends and fellow Currahees attended the dedication.

kays1.jpg

Left to right, Roger Crabb, Bruce Moore, Kenny David, Tony Cox, Greg Phillips, Don Shaughnessy, Merle Delagrange, Steve "Greek" Avgerinos, John "Ernie" Banks, knealing Randy Mills, author of "Trouble Hero".

From the Courier Press
Fairfield honors reluctant war hero
By LEN WELLS, Courier & Press correspondent (618) 842- 2159 or lenwells@wabash.net
Sunday, May 6, 2007

Monday will mark the 37th anniversary of the day Pfc. Kenneth Kays earned the Medal of Honor for remarkable acts of heroism during the Vietnam War.

Although many of them didn't recognize Kays' sacrifice during his lifetime, Fairfield residents and former Vietnam-era soldiers dedicated a monument in his memory Saturday.

kays2.jpg

Left to right, Leonard Foster, Steve "Greek" Avgerinos, Tim Fornes, Roger Crabb, Kenny David, Greg Phillips, COL Vail Commander 4th BCT, CSM Atchley.

The black granite monument stands on the front lawn of the Hannah House Museum on South First Street, just south of Fairfield's downtown district.

The medal the nation's highest was an honor Kays didn't want from a war he really didn't believe in. In fact, Kays fled to Canada to avoid the draft, but reported for duty after his World War II veteran father pleaded with him to come home for duty.

As a conscientious objector, Kays was assigned to the 506th Infantry of the 101st Airborne Division as a medical aide.

On May 7, 1970, a heavily armed force of enemy sappers assaulted Company D's night defensive position, wounding and killing seven of the 21 men in the unit.

Kays moved toward the perimeter to assist fallen comrades when an explosive charge blew off the lower portion of his left leg.

Kays tried to get up and run toward other fallen soldiers when he realized his leg was gone. He applied a tourniquet to his leg and continued to administer aid to the wounded. Using his own body as a shield against enemy bullets and bomb fragments, he moved all of the injured to safety before allowing his own wounds to be treated.

It has taken nearly four decades and a book about Kays' life for the people of Fairfield to finally focus on his military service and forget about his troubled life after the Vietnam War.

kays3.jpg

Greg Phillips, COL Vail 4th BCT Commander, CSM Atchley, John "Ernie" Banks, Merle Delagrange, Joe Connelly, Tony Cox.
"Kenny wouldn't have wanted any of this," said Joe Keoughan of San Diego, one of Kays' closest friends. "If you knew the real Kenny Kays, though, you knew he was a pretty remarkable human being. Not many people could pull the strength up and out of themselves like Kenny did to earn the Medal of Honor."

Most of the soldiers who served with Kays never knew he received the medal until Oakland City University Professor Randy Mills published a book about the reluctant hero last year.

"I'm so happy, humbled and blessed by all this," Mills said. "Today's memorial service begins the healing for this community and those who served with Kenny. In the end, he helped more people than he realized."

"Kenny served with us for only about 24 hours," said Greg Phillips of Birmingham, Ala., who earned the Silver Star for his actions during the battle. "It was my 55th birthday and I was surfin' the Internet and decided to look up the 101st Airborne to view those who earned the Medal of Honor. There was Kenny. I had no idea."

kays5.jpg

Steve "Greek" Avgerinos and Sammy Davis.

"Nearly 37 years had passed when Randy Mills contacted me about Kenny," said Stephen "The Greek" Avgerinos of Griffith, Ind. "It's about time this community honored Kenny. We've just begun the healing process, and there's still a lot left to do."

Avgerinos earned the Bronze Star w/V Device for his actions during the battle.

Roger Crabb said he remembered watching television the evening President Richard Nixon bestowed the Congressional Medal of Honor on a longhaired, bearded guy from Fairfield, Ill. It wasn't until he heard about Randy Mills' book about Kays that he put two and two together.

Kays took his own life on Nov. 29, 1991.