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First Name: Louis

Last Name: Rocco

Birthplace: Albuquerque, NM, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Army (1784 - present)

Home of Record: Los Angeles, CA
Middle Name: Richard

Date of Birth: 19 November 1938

Date of Death: 31 October 2002

Rank: Chief Warrant Officer 2

Years Served: 1955-1978, 1991-1992
Louis Richard Rocco

•  Vietnam War (1960 - 1973)


Louis Richard Rocco
Chief Warrant Officer 2, U.S. Army
Medal of Honor Recipient
Vietnam War

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Louis Richard Rocco (19 November 1938 - 31 October 2002) was a U.S. Army soldier who received the Medal of Honor, the U.S. military's highest award for valor, for his heroic actions during the Vietnam War. Despite being wounded, Rocco saved three comrades from a burning helicopter.

Louis Richard Rocco was born on 19 November 1938 in Albuquerque, NM. He was the third oldest of nine siblings born to an Italian-American father and a Mexican-American mother. In 1948, the family moved to a housing project in the San Fernando Valley and later to a barrio called Wilmington. He joined a local gang and was frequently in trouble with the law. Rocco dropped out of high school and, in 1954 when he was 16 years old, was arrested for armed robbery.

Rocco was in court for his sentencing and during an hour's break he walked into a U.S. Army Recruiters office. The recruiting officer, Sgt. Martinez, accompanied Rocco to the court and spoke to the judge. The judge gave him a suspended sentence and told him that he could join the Army when he was 17 if he stayed in school, obeyed a curfew and shunned his gang.

In 1955, Rocco joined the Army. After completing his basic training, he was sent to Germany. During his tour there he earned his high school general equivalency diploma.

A few years later, Rocco was serving as a medic at Fort MacArthur in San Pedro, CA. On one occasion he looked across the room and saw a familiar face. It was Sgt. Martinez, lying on a litter and badly wounded. Rocco made sure the sergeant got special attention and round-the-clock care.

Vietnam War

Rocco served in two tours of duty in the Republic of Vietnam during the Vietnam War. His first tour was from 1965 to 1966. In 1969, Rocco, who was by then a Sergeant First Class, returned for another tour of duty in Vietnam and was assigned to the Advisory Team 162 of the U.S. Military Assistance Command.

On 24 May 1970, he was present when a medical evacuation team was sent on an urgent mission to pick up eight critically wounded South Vietnamese soldiers near the village of Katum. Rocco volunteered to accompany the team on the mission. The helicopter in which Rocco and the team were riding in came under heavy enemy fire as it approached the landing zone. The pilot was shot in the leg and the helicopter crashed into a field. Under intense enemy fire, Rocco was able to carry each of the unconscious crash survivors to the Army of the Republic of Vietnam's perimeter. Despite the fact that he himself had suffered a fractured wrist and hip, and had a severely bruised back, he was able to help administer first aid to his wounded comrades before collapsing and losing consciousness.

Lieutenant Lee Caubareaux, the helicopter's co-pilot later lobbied for Rocco to receive the Medal of Honor. On 12 December 1974, President Gerald R. Ford bestowed upon Rocco the Medal of Honor in a ceremony held at the White House.

Medal of Honor


Rank and organization: Warrant Officer (then Sergeant First Class), U.S. Army, Advisory Team 162, U.S. Military Assistance Command.

Place and date: Northeast of Katum, Republic of Vietnam, 24 May 1970

Entered service at: Los Angeles, CA

Born: 19 November 1938, Albuquerque, NM

Citation: WO Rocco distinguished himself when he volunteered to accompany a medical evacuation team on an urgent mission to evacuate 8 critically wounded Army of the Republic of Vietnam personnel. As the helicopter approached the landing zone, it became the target for intense enemy automatic weapons fire. Disregarding his own safety, WO Rocco identified and placed accurate suppressive fire on the enemy positions as the aircraft descended toward the landing zone. Sustaining major damage from the enemy fire, the aircraft was forced to crash land, causing WO Rocco to sustain a fractured wrist and hip and a severely bruised back. Ignoring his injuries, he extracted the survivors from the burning wreckage, sustaining burns to his own body. Despite intense enemy fire, WO Rocco carried each unconscious man across approximately 20 meters of exposed terrain to the Army of the Republic of Vietnam perimeter. On each trip, his severely burned hands and broken wrist caused excruciating pain, but the lives of the unconscious crash survivors were more important than his personal discomfort, and he continued his rescue efforts. Once inside the friendly position, WO Rocco helped administer first aid to his wounded comrades until his wounds and burns caused him to collapse and lose consciousness. His bravery under fire and intense devotion to duty were directly responsible for saving 3 of his fellow soldiers from certain death. His unparalleled bravery in the face of enemy fire, his complete disregard for his own pain and injuries, and his performance were far above and beyond the call of duty and were in keeping with the highest traditions of self-sacrifice and courage of the military service.

The Later Years

Rocco made a career of the Army and earned an associate's degree. In 1978, Rocco retired from the Army as a Chief Warrant Officer 2.

He returned to New Mexico and was named director of New Mexico's Veterans Service Commission. Among his accomplishments were the following; he established the Vietnam Veterans of New Mexico and opened a Vet Center, which provided peer counseling to Vietnam veterans. He started a shelter for the homeless and a nursing home for veterans, and persuaded New Mexico legislators and voters to let all veterans into state colleges free.

Rocco returned to active duty in 1991, during Operation Desert Storm and was stationed at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, TX. There he recruited medical personnel. When he returned to his home, he met the woman who was to become his fourth wife, Maria Chavez Schneider, an assistant director of New Mexico AIDS Services. In 1992, they moved to Mexico and lived for six years in the town of San Miguel de Allende. In 1998, they moved to San Antonio, TX. On 11 July 2000, Rocco was appointed the new Deputy State Director for Texas, in San Antonio. Rocco became instrumental in promoting Veterans Against Drugs, a growing nationwide program in the schools.

Medals and Awards

Medal of Honor
Bronze Star Medal
Purple Heart
National Defense Service Medal
Vietnam Service Medal
Southwest Asia Service Medal
Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Palm Streamer
Vietnam Campaign Medal

Combat Medical Badge
Parachutist Badge


The local government of San Antonio, TX, honored Rocco by naming a youth center the Louis Rocco Youth & Family Center. There is also an AAAA National SFC Louis R. Rocco MOH $1,000 Scholarship.

Death and Burial

In 2002, Rocco was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. On 31 October 2002, Chief Warrant Officer Louis R. Rocco died at his home in San Antonio. He was buried with full military honors at the Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio, TX.

He is survived by his wife, Maria; two sons, Roy and Brian; one daughter, Theresa; his mother, Lita Rocco and five grandchildren (Dell Rocco, Ashley Rocco, Cameron DuBois, James Richard Rocco, Thomas Rocco).

Honoree ID: 1071   Created by: MHOH




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