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First Name: Kenneth

Last Name: Kays

Birthplace: Mount Vernon, IL, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Army (1784 - present)

Home of Record: Fairfield, IL
Middle Name: Michael

Date of Birth: 22 September 1949

Date of Death: 29 November 1991

Rank: Private First Class

Years Served:
Kenneth Michael Kays

•  Vietnam War (1960 - 1973)


Kenneth Michael Kays
Private First Class, U.S. Army
Medal of Honor Recipient
Vietnam War

Private First Class Kenneth Michael Kays was a U.S. Army soldier and a recipient of the U.S. military's highest award for valor, the Medal of Honor, for his actions in the Vietnam War.

Kenneth Michael Kays was born on 22 September 1949, in Mount Vernon, IL. Denied status as a conscientious objector, Kays fled to Canada to avoid getting drafted for military service in Vietnam until the U.S. Army guaranteed he would be able to serve as a medic. Kays joined the Army at Fairfield, IL. On 7 May 1970, he was serving as a private in the Headquarters Company of 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division. During a firefight that day in Thua Thien-Hue Province, Republic of Vietnam, Kays repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire in order to treat wounded soldiers, even after losing his lower left leg to an explosion. He was subsequently promoted to Private First Class and awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions.

Medal of Honor

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Pfc. (then Pvt.) Kays distinguished himself while serving as a medical aidman with Company D, 1st Battalion, 101st Airborne Division near Fire Support Base Maureen. A heavily armed force of enemy sappers and infantrymen assaulted Company D's night defensive position, wounding and killing a number of its members. Disregarding the intense enemy fire and ground assault, Pfc. Kays began moving toward the perimeter to assist his fallen comrades. In doing so he became the target of concentrated enemy fire and explosive charges, 1 of which severed the lower portion of his left leg. After applying a tourniquet to his leg, Pfc. Kays moved to the fire-swept perimeter, administered medical aid to 1 of the wounded, and helped move him to an area of relative safety. Despite his severe wound and excruciating pain, Pfc. Kays returned to the perimeter in search of other wounded men. He treated another wounded comrade, and, using his own body as a shield against enemy bullets and fragments, moved him to safety. Although weakened from a great loss of blood, Pfc. Kays resumed his heroic lifesaving efforts by moving beyond the company's perimeter into enemy held territory to treat a wounded American lying there. Only after his fellow wounded soldiers had been treated and evacuated did Pfc. Kays allow his own wounds to be treated. These courageous acts by Pfc. Kays resulted in the saving of numerous lives and inspired others in his company to repel the enemy. Pfc. Kays' heroism at the risk of his life is in keeping with the highest traditions of the service and reflect great credit on him, his unit, and the U.S. Army.

Medals, Awards and Badges

Medal of Honor
Purple Heart
National Defense Service Medal
Vietnam Service Medal
Vietnam Campaign Medal
Combat Medical Badge

Death and Burial

Kenneth Michael Kays left the Army while still a Private First Class. His later life was very tragic. He spent time in mental hospitals and struggled with addiction. On 29 November 1991, at age 42, he took his own life. He is buried at Maple Hill Cemetery in Fairfield, IL, in the Veterans Section.

Honoree ID: 991   Created by: MHOH




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