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Instead, it might be retired Army Capt. and UT alumnus Larry Taylor of Chattanooga. Because of his heroism in Vietnam in helping rescue four soldiers in June 1968, he was recently presented the nation’s highest decoration for military valor – the Medal of Honor.
He was previously given the Silver Star. After his actions were re-examined with the push of supporters, President Joe Biden presented him with the medal during a televised White House ceremony Sept. 5.
And on Sept. 11, hundreds of Chattanoogans turned out for a special parade and ceremony in that city’s downtown area. Some members of his old Army ROTC unit at UT posted the colors.
At UT, Taylor apparently was already showing signs of leadership. Some old Volunteer school yearbooks found online point out his involvement in such areas as ROTC, Greek life and even music and fine arts.
As Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity brother Alan Cates recalled recently, “Larry was a year ahead of me in school and was a terrific fraternity brother, always friendly and approachable. When I think of him, my image is of someone smiling in a very genuine way.”
He had initially been recognized for military heroism back in 1968 for his actions in which his Cobra helicopter had tried to help support a crew of four on the ground by unleashing rockets and machine gun fire on enemy fighters. But moments later, after he was low on fuel but realizing the four on the ground might not survive, he made the hasty decision to go from attacking the enemy to rescuing the fellow Americans.
Although his helicopter was not made for carrying passengers, the then-first lieutenant was able to get the four – including Gerald Patty, then of Maryville and now deceased – to grab hold of the runners of the chopper. He was then able to fly them out to safety.
As Biden said during the recent White House ceremony, “1st Lt. Taylor’s conspicuous gallantry, his profound concern for his fellow soldiers, and his intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.”
Although he is credited with graduating from UT in 1966, a check in the old UT “Volunteer” yearbooks online shows that he had apparently finished all or at least most of his schooling by 1965.
He is pictured in the senior section in 1965 next to a long list of his accomplishments at UT. The writeup said he was a vice president of Lambda Chi Alpha social fraternity, was in Scabbard and Blade military honor society, was the junior Interfraternity Council president, was an ROTC captain who was named the best drilled freshman and sophomore. He was also in the Advanced ROTC Club.
As if that were not enough, he was also in the UT Singers and the Vol Chorus and took part in the related Carnicus and All-Sing events.
He was at UT at a time when it was beginning large growth, as the Baby Boomers arriving just after him would expand the campus. He finished about the time the now-razed Music Building on Volunteer Boulevard was completed in 1965 and when the UT football program was beginning its own renaissance under coach Doug Dickey. His now-razed Lambda Chi fraternity home was then at 931 S. 17th St. before Fraternity Park opened later in the 1960s.
While Taylor had been busy with the ceremonies recently and was unable to be contacted, Cates recalled the well-rounded schoolmate positively.
“He was very active in the UT Singers, had an extraordinary singing voice, and took the lead in our fraternity's winning performance in an annual interfraternity/sorority university-wide singing group competition,” he said. “He was also a highly ranking member of the Army ROTC unit.”
Cates, an attorney in Chattanooga who was also involved as a student in the efforts to get the Torchbearer statue erected on campus, added that he has kept up with Taylor over the years and visited with him at his Signal Mountain home. He also attended the Sept. 11 ceremony.
From the Hill at UT to Capitol Hill after his medal was awarded by Biden in the name of Congress, Taylor has distinguished himself.
This article originally appeared on Knoxville News Sentinel: Medal of Honor soldier Larry Taylor is a University of Tennessee alum