Corporal Steven D. Lopez

For extraordinary heroism while serving as a Radio Operator with the First Platoon, Company A, Third Reconnaissance Battalion, Third Marine Division (Reinforced) near Khe Sanh, Republic of Vietnam, on 9 and 10 May 1967. Corporal (then Private First Class) Lopez was a member of a seven man reconnaissance patrol deep in enemy controlled territory. The patrol discovered numerous enemy bunkers and equipment and radioed the valuable intelligence information back. Towards evening they withdrew to high ground and established a night defense. Shortly after midnight, a North Vietnamese unit of approximately 50 men was heard moving toward their position. Several enemy troops walked into their position and started to unsling their weapons and Corporal Lopez quickly killed them with an accurate burst of automatic weapons fire. The enemy immediately began delivering a heavy volume of small arms fire into their perimeter. As the fire fight continued, numerous casualties were inflicted until only Corporal Lopez, who was wounded in the side, and another Marine were able to deliver fire on the enemy. Although wounded, he assumed the task of directing artillery on enemy positions around the patrol. Armed helicopters and flare ships arrived to add support to the besieged patrol. Wounded a second time, he still courageously directed supporting arms in dangerously close to his position as, on several occasions, the enemy was within 15 feet of his position. Two attempts to extract the patrol by helicopter failed, due to the intense enemy fire. Running low on ammunition, he moved among the bodies of his fallen comrades to retrieve ammunition and discovered one Marine seriously wounded. He moved him to a covered position and distributed the ammunition between himself and the other survivor. He once again called in air support so close that dirt from the exploding rockets and bombs showered them and was once again wounded when an enemy round grazed his head. A last desperate attempt was made for extraction by helicopter. Napalm, bombs, and rockets rocked the enemy's position as the three remaining members of the patrol were extracted. His steadfast determination and indomitable fighting spirit throughout the twelve hour ordeal were instrumental in inflicting numerous casualties on the enemy and saving the lives of several Marines. By his outstanding courage, bold initiative and selfless devotion to duty in the face of grave personal danger, Corporal Lopez upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.