"When I have your wounded!" - The last words of DUSTOFF pilot Major Charles L. Kelly, after being told to withdraw from a hot combat area in Vietnam 50 years ago today.
As commander of the 57th Medical Detachment (Helicopter Ambulance), Kelly assumed the call sign "DUSTOFF." On 1 July 1964 Kelly approached a hot area in Vinh Long Province, South Vietnam to pick up wounded only to find the enemy waiting with a withering barrage of fire. Advised repeatedly to withdraw, he calmly replied to the ground element's advisor, "When I have your wounded." Moments later, he was killed by a single bullet that entered through the open window of his helicopter. Kelly was dead but his "DUSTOFF" became the call sign for all medical evacuation missions in Vietnam. "When I have your wounded" became the personal and collective credo of the gallant DUSTOFF pilots who followed him.
Major Kelly's awards include the Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star Medal, Distinguished Flying Cross with two Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters, Bronze Star Medal (Merit), 2 Purple Hearts, Air Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, Army of Occupation Medal (WWII), National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal, Combat Medic Badge, Combat Infantryman Badge, Army Aviator Badge, Parachutist Badge.
Major Kelly was inducted into the DUSTOFF Hall of Fame on February 17, 2001.