HARTFORD, Conn. - Billy Walkabout, a native
Cherokee whose actions in Vietnam made him among most decorated Soldiers
of the war, died March 7, his stepdaughter said Sunday. He was 57.
Walkabout received the Distinguished Service Cross, Purple
Heart, five Silver Stars and five Bronze Stars. He was believed to be
the most decorated Native American Soldier of the Vietnam War, according
to U.S. Department of Defense reports.
Walkabout, who lived in Montville, died of pneumonia and
renal failure at a Norwich hospital, said his stepdaughter, Randi
Johnson of Norwich.
He had experienced complications related to his exposure to
the Agent Orange defoliant used during the Vietnam conflict, she said,
and he had been on a kidney transplant waiting list and undergoing
dialysis three times a week.
Walkabout, a Cherokee of the Blue Holley Clan, was an
18-year-old Army Ranger sergeant when he and 12 other Soldiers were sent
on an assassination mission behind enemy lines on Nov. 20, 1968, in a
region southwest of Hue.
However, they ended up in the enemy's battalion area and came
under fire for hours, during which he was seriously wounded. Several of
the other 12 men were killed at the scene, while the rest later died of
Walkabout's citation for the Distinguished Service Cross said
he simultaneously returned fire, helped his comrades and boarded other
injured Soldiers onto evacuation helicopters.
"Although stunned and wounded by the blast, Sgt. Walkabout
rushed from man to man administering first aid, bandaging one Soldier's
severe chest wound and reviving another Soldier by heart massage," the
In a 1986 interview with The Associated Press, Walkabout said
his 23 months in Vietnam left him with disabling injuries and memories
that refused to fade.
"War is not hell," Walkabout said. "It's worse."
He said he struggled with failed marriages, thoughts of
suicide and years of self-isolation when he would spend six months at a
Over the years, however, he found solace in the Native
American powwows where he often was an honored guest.
At the time of his death, Walkabout and his wife, Juanita
Medbury-Walkabout, lived in a portion of eastern Connecticut that is
home to many American Indian tribal members.
His family is in the process of requesting a military
burial at Arlington National Cemetery, Johnson said.
Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved