On February 23 1969, during the Vietnam War, Private First Class Oscar Palmer Austin, while serving as an assistant machine gunner with Company E, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division, Fleet Marine Force, sacrificed his life to protect fellow Marine, Lance Corporal Douglas Payne.
During the early morning hours, Pfc. Austin’s observation post was subject to a fierce ground attack by a large North Vietnamese Army unit supported by a heavy volume of hand grenades, satchel charges, and small arms fire.
Observing that Lance Cpl. Payne was wounded and fallen unconscious in a position dangerously exposed to the hostile fire, Pfc. Austin courageously left the relative security of his fighting hole, and with complete disregard for his safety, raced across the fire-swept terrain to assist Lance Cpl. Payne to a covered location.
As he neared Payne, he observed an enemy grenade land nearby. Reacting instantly, Austin leaped between Payne and the lethal object, absorbing the effects of its detonation.
Austin ignored his painful shrapnel wounds and turned to examine Payne, and saw a North Vietnamese Army soldier aiming a weapon at his unconscious friend.
With full knowledge of the probable consequences, Pfc. Austin threw himself between Payne and the hostile soldier, was struck by gunfire, and was mortally wounded.
For his heroic actions, Pfc. Austin was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in 1970.
“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”