Equels honored for heroism

first_imgFor service in Vietnam September 15, 2003 Regular News Equels honored for heroism Florida litigator Thomas K. Equels, an Army aviator who was honored seven times for heroism in Vietnam, has been inducted in the Distinguished Flying Cross Society, comprised exclusively of war heroes who received the highest honor for military flying.During his service in Vietnam, Equels was awarded two Distinguished Flying Crosses, the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star, 15 air medals including three with “V” devise for valor, and the Vietnam Cross of Gallantry.“I was a helicopter gunship pilot facing combat almost every day,” said Equels, managing director of the law firm Holtzman Equels. “The war taught me to be totally calm and clear in highly challenging situations.”Equels will be recognized during an annual ceremony in San Diego this fall.Equels’ first Distinguished Flying Cross was awarded for a rescue mission during the first days of the 1972 “Spring Offensive” when five divisions of the North Vietnamese Army invaded the south. Equels was the co-pilot of a Cobra helicopter gunship conducting aerial reconnaissance when Camp Carroll, an allied firebase, was being overrun by several thousand North Vietnamese troops. While the allied troops sought emergency shelter in a bunker at the center of the firebase, Equels provided suppressive gunfire, driving back the enemy forces. A Chinook helicopter then landed and rescued the surviving allied soldiers as Equels’ Cobra took over 50 hits from enemy fire while covering the evacuation.Equels earned a second Distinguished Flying Cross for bravery during a battle near the town of Tian Phuoc. As a heavily armed brigade of North Vietnamese attacked this outpost of allied troops, Equels engaged the enemy, providing close fire support and slowed the approaching attack. Two enemy tanks then joined the attack. Unfortunately, bad weather prevented U.S. Air Force fighter jets, typically used to destroy such tanks, from joining the battle. Assisted by a second Cobra, Equels attacked and not only wiped out the two tanks, but inflicted massive casualties on the enemy.“I was a 19-year-old who believed in creating a world of free people living in democratic institutions,” Equels said. “When I returned from Vietnam, I became a lawyer, determined to devote a part of my practice to social justice. I still think that we can change the world for the better, a little bit at a time, by dealing with everyday matters that are within our power and abilities. No matter how difficult things become, the willingness of brave citizens to serve is what counts. Whether serving as a helicopter pilot in combat or serving food at a church soup kitchen for the homeless, our country and our communities depend on such service. It is vital to the preservation of liberty and our democratic institutions.”Among his professional achievements, Equels, obtained a $44-million judgment against Manuel Noriega for money he misappropriated from the Republic of Panama.As a community leader, Equels received the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Community Service Award in 1995, the Guild of Catholic Lawyers’ St. Thomas Moore Award in 1991, as well as The Florida Bar President’s Pro Bono Service Award, and the Federal Bar Association’s Public Service Award in 1987. Equels honored for heroismlast_img

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