WASHINGTON – Fifty years later, Jim Skaggs of Troy continues to keep alive the memory of a remarkable man from Ohio who became his close friend during the Vietnam War. On May 6, 1970, Gary McKiddy pulled an unconscious Skaggs to safety from the wreckage of a helicopter, only to give up his own life after he returned to the flaming heap in an ill-fated attempt to rescue the final crew member, pilot Tom Whiddon, but was unable to beat the inevitable explosion of burning fuel.
After hearing Skaggs’ narrative and learning of 50th anniversary commemorative events planned in Ohio, Congressman John Shimkus (R, Illinois-15) entered a statement into the permanent Congressional Record.
“Based on the account of survivor Skaggs as well as the accounts of the medical evacuation team, all three men survived the initial crash. McKiddy, who was thrown from the helicopter, bravely and heroically charged back into the burning crash in an attempt to save both fellow crew members. After successfully rescuing Skaggs, McKiddy was killed while trying to save his pilot, Warrant Officer Whiddon,” Shimkus noted. “On June 24, 1970, McKiddy was posthumously awarded the Silver Star, the third-highest personal decoration for valor in the United States Armed Forces.”
Skaggs’ story becomes even more remarkable and his decision to enter the ministry easy to understand when he shares the epilogue to the events of May 6, 1970. Following his recovery, Skaggs learned that the quarters where he resided had been attacked around the same time as his helicopter crash. Had he not volunteered to join his friend on their scouting mission, he would have been sleeping in his bunk. That very bunk, he was told, took a direct hit.