Gurnee man laid life on the line to save fellow soldiers
Medal of Honor recipient Allen J. Lynch is a hero by anyone's definition.
While serving in Vietnam, Lynch repeatedly laid his life on the line to protect three soldiers after his company was swarmed by an enemy force that far outnumbered his own.
"I was either in the wrong place at the right time, or the right place at the wrong time, depending on how you look at it," Lynch said with a laugh. "We all got to go home. That's what was important."
Lynch, now 72 and living in Gurnee, works for a veterans assistance program he helped create. The Allen J. Lynch Medal of Honor Veterans Assistance Program is designed to "help veterans help themselves," he said.
"We provide direct assistance to all veterans in need at home, but the veterans have to take part in their own success," he said. "The people we give assistance to are actively pursuing employment and education. We don't do a handout, we do a hand up."
The attack against Lynch and his company came Dec. 15, 1967, when he was serving as a radio operator with Company D, 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division for the U.S. Army in the Binh Dinh province.
After the attack started, Lynch observed three wounded soldiers lying in the open and exposed to enemy fire after giving his commander information essential to the attack.
"When I saw the first one go down, I dropped my radio and ran over to check on him," Lynch said. "You don't have time to think. You just react."
Lynch ran 50 meters through a hail of enemy fire to administer aid to the soldiers. During the run, he scouted a nearby trench to protect the wounded. After physically taking over the trench from the opposition, he again went into the firefight to pull the wounded to safety.
"We were all in this ditch, just trying to stay alive," Lynch said.
After his company was forced to withdraw due to the overwhelming forces and firepower by the enemy, Lynch remained in the trench, defending the position for two hours against the advancing enemy using only a rifle and a grenade.
After several hours, Lynch disregarded his safety to rejoin his friendly battalion to help evacuate the wounded soldiers. He then rejoined the fight to assist the counterattacking company.
Due to his bravery, Lynch was promoted to sergeant. President Richard Nixon awarded him the Medal of Honor May 14, 1970.
Lynch said he has worked with veterans since leaving active duty in 1969. He first tried to retire when he turned 60, but it didn't take, he said.
"Just when I think I'm out, they pull me back in," he said with a chuckle. "I'm now planning to retire at 75, but we'll see if that works any better than it did when I was 60."
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