November 29, 2023
A team of Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP pro bono attorneys, led by counsel Todd Mikolop and associate Garrett Kral*, is assisting the Vietnam Dustoff Association with lobbying Congress to award a Congressional Gold Medal to the United States Army Dustoff crews of the Vietnam War in recognition of their extraordinary heroism and life-saving actions in Vietnam. During the Vietnam War, members of this elite group flew medical evacuation helicopters into the jungle to rescue and transport mortally wounded military personnel from the battlefield to nearby hospitals. These individuals are credited with evacuating more than 900,000 people and saving countless lives.
“The Operation Dustoff pilots flew with valor and compassion saving thousands of people’s lives,” wrote Hunton Andrews Kurth partner and Dustoff Congressional Gold Medal volunteer Mike Kerrigan in an Op-Ed published in the Wall Street Journal. “Dustoff crew members knew there was a one in three chance of being killed or wounded during their efforts yet they still went on. These patriots deserve to be significantly recognized for their dedication and service.”
The Dustoff Crews of the Vietnam War Congressional Gold Medal Act (H.R. 1015) was introduced in the House of Representatives on February 14, 2023 and in the Senate (S. 2825) on September 14, 2023. The identical bills provide for the award of a single Congressional Gold Medal to those in Operation Dustoff for their heroic military service. To date, there are 89 cosponsors in the United States House of Representatives and 27 cosponsors in the Senate. However, to move the bills to the floor for a vote in each chamber and ultimately award the Vietnam Dustoff crews with the Congressional Gold Medal, two-thirds of each chamber of Congress (290 members in the House and 67 members in the Senate) are required to cosponsor this legislation.
Hunton Andrews Kurth’s pro bono efforts have previously resulted in a Congressional Gold Medal. In 2020, a group of firm lawyers led by partner Fred Eames were successful in enlisting congressional support for the Merrill’s Marauders Congressional Gold Medal Act, honoring soldiers of the 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional), commonly known as the ‘Merrill’s Marauders’, with Congressional Gold Medals in recognition of their bravery and outstanding service in the jungles of Burma during World War II.
Hunton Andrews Kurth is proud of its community service and leadership among law firms in the United States, where the firm’s tradition of pro bono service is well recognized. At the end of the firm’s fiscal year on March 31, 2023, its lawyers had donated more than 52,000 pro bono hours to underserved communities. This represented more than 4% of the firm’s gross billable hours and commemorates 30 continuous years of meeting or exceeding the Pro Bono Institute’s Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge of donating at least 3% of the firm’s annual billable hours to pro bono service.
*Garrett Kral is only admitted in Alabama. Work supervised by Eric Murdock, a member of the District of Columbia Bar.