Remembering Medal of Honor recipient Sgt. Mitchell W. Stout
Sgt. Mitchell Stout sacrificed himself to protect his men while stationed in Vietnam.
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - From Loudon County, Sgt. Mitchell W. Stout laid down his life to protect his men and his country in Vietnam.
You’ve probably seen his name driving over the Tennessee River or etched in stone in World’s Fair Park, but there’s more to Sgt. Stout than just his name.
On March 12, 1970, Sgt. Stout was stationed near the Khe Gio Bridge in Vietnam when he and his men undertook heavy enemy fire. After the air had cleared, an enemy grenade made its way into the bunker Sgt. Stout and his men were in. Sacrificing himself, Sgt. Stout held the grenade to his chest, protecting his men from the blast.
In Virtue Cemetery in Farragut, Melody Woods remembered her little brother, “Mitch,” as a typical guy.
“This is my favorite, favorite of all the photos. On the back, he wrote the ‘war lord.’ They didn’t have LOL then so he wrote ‘ha!’” Woods said. “He loved fast cars, pretty women, country music. He loved to fish, loved to hunt.”
Stout felt called to serve our country at a young age.
“This is when he was in basic training,” said Woods. “He had no hair, that didn’t sit real well with him.”
At just 17 years old, Stout joined the Army.
“He didn’t talk about the bad things in Vietnam,” Woods said. He never lost his fun-loving spirit. Woods still remembers the day Stout came home from his first tour.
“We heard the door bang open you know,” recalled Woods. “He says, ‘if there’s not a cold beer in here, I’m not staying!’ and it was just so typical him.”
Just three years into his service, Stout quickly climbed the ranks to earn the title of sergeant.
“It’s an honor to serve and to be promoted in that shortened time, so he had to be exceptional,” said Larry Winters.
Winters served in Vietnam in the Marines. Although he didn’t know Sgt. Stout personally, he knows what Stout was up against.
“As a squad leader, he’s responsible for 13 men,” said Winters. “Those 13 men become his family, his responsibility. And you pretty much do a lot of things that you wouldn’t think you would do to protect them.”
“‘His guys,’ he called them,” said Woods.
Stout’s love for “his guys” is what Woods said drove him to volunteer for a second tour in Vietnam.
“He felt like he could offer them more than somebody that hadn’t been there before. That maybe he could help somebody,” Woods said.
Under enemy fire, Sgt. Stout put his guys and his country before his future.
“To pick up that grenade, put it to his chest and try to get out of that bunker. He had to know he had to know he was going to die. It had to know it. It’s special,” said Winters.
A heroic sacrifice, just three weeks after his 20th birthday. That act of courage didn’t come as a surprise to his friends.
“I’m very, very proud to have known him and his family,” said Sarah Williams Stewart.
Stewart grew up going to church with Stout. Memories that last more than 50 years later.
“We need to thank god every day for people, men and women like Mitchell, who gave their lives so that we can wake up and enjoy the freedoms that we have in America,” Stewart said.
Sergeant Stout is the only army air defense artilleryman in history to receive the Medal of Honor.
When offered a plot in Arlington National Cemetery, Stout’s family brought him back home to Virtue Cemetery. It’s the site of the church where he spent so many Sundays.
“We still honor him today,” said Winters. “And we’ll do it again next year and the year after. Maybe not me, but somebody will.”
Honored all across East Tennessee, Woods hopes you’ll remember.
“He wasn’t just a name on the building, he was a little brother and a big brother and he was loved by many,” said Woods.
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