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Medal of Honor recipient reflects on Vietnam War, politics during Pueblo portrait unveiling

Author: Erin Prater - June 18, 2018 - Updated: June 19, 2018

Medal of Honor recipient retired Marine Maj. Gen. James Livingston speaks June 15 at his portrait unveiling ceremony at the Center for American Values in Pueblo. (Photo by Erin Prater, Colorado Politics)

PUEBLO — U.S. forces had the capability to win the Vietnam War but not the support they needed back home, Medal of Honor recipient and retired Marine Maj. Gen. James Livingston said during a ceremony to unveil his portrait at the Center for American Values in Pueblo.

“The Vietnamese just love Americans,” he said at Friday’s event. “The negative impact of the Vietnam War was made in Washington by politicians who turned off supplies that we had agreed to.”

The portrait of Livingston, 78, joins those of more than 140 other Medal of Honor recipients at the center, which fellow medal recipient and Pueblo native Drew Dix helped found in 2010.

The apolitical center intends to “recognize and preserve the values this great country was founded on,” according to its website.

Livingston was awarded the Medal of Honor by then-President Richard Nixon on May 14, 1970, for his actions on May 2, 1968, in the village of Dai Do, Vietnam. He was the commanding officer of E Company, Second Battalion, Fourth Marines, Ninth Marine Amphibious Brigade the day he led his men in a “savage assault against enemy emplacements within the village,” according to the citation.

After leading his men in the destruction of more than 100 enemy bunkers, Livingston “boldly maneuvered the remaining effective men of his company forward” to assist another company that had been halted by a “furious counterattack” at the nearby village of Dinh To, the citation adds. Livington was wounded three times that day; the final wound rendered him unable to walk.

An enemy fighter “shot the hell out of me, and I went down,” Livingston said during his speech Friday. “I told the kids to get out of there and leave me there. A couple of Marines said, ‘Hell no, Skipper,’ and they dragged me back.”

Disregarding his safety, Livingston “remained in a dangerously exposed area,” directing his men and supervising casualty evacuations. He only allowed himself to be evacuated when he was assured of the safety of his men, according to the citation.

Each portrait at the Center for American Values is accompanied by a quote. Livingston’s reads as follows: “There is no greater honor than the opportunity to serve and help preserve our freedom — it’s the essence of humanity.”

Those who’ve heard Livingston speak, however, likely remember him for his signature quote about that fateful day: The battle was “about 10,000 North Vietnamese against about 800 Marines. So it was a fair fight.”

His advice to leaders in the era of Twitter and political food fights: Listen.

“You can’t engage people … talking on the Twitter,” he said. “You need to look people in the eye and talk to them.”

Erin Prater

Erin Prater

Erin Prater is Colorado Politics' digital editor. She is a multimedia journalist with 15 years of experience writing, editing and designing for newspapers, magazines, websites and publishing houses. Her previous positions include military reporter at The Gazette, general assignment reporter at The Huerfano County (Colo.) World, copy editor at David C. Cook publishing house and adjunct mass communication instructor at Pueblo Community College. Her bylines include The New York Times Upfront, The Argus Leader (Sioux Falls, S.D.), Military Spouse magazine and Omaha Magazine (Omaha, Neb.). Her syndicated bylines include The Denver Post,, and wire services.