Holmes Community College sophomore defensive lineman Charvez Embry of Eupora received the Milton Lee Olive Courage and Character Award during the awards banquet Monday night in the Math/Science Building on the Goodman Campus.
The award is named for Milton Lee Olive, who was the first African American to ever be awarded a Congressional Medal of Honor in the Vietnam War after sacrificing his life to save his platoon during a conflict in Vietnam. Although he was born in Chicago, Olive has strong ties to the community as he was reared in Holmes County near Ebenezer.
In May 1963, the U.S. Army's 173rd Airborne Brigade became the first major combat unit to arrive in Vietnam. As the Army's only action-ready unit in the Pacific at that time, it was only a matter of weeks before the "Sky Soldiers" of the 173rd encountered the enemy firsthand. Again and again, these soldiers would struggle to secure and keep the 60-square-mile area known as War Zone D.
Also known as the "Iron Triangle," this territory would be Pfc. Milton Lee Olive III's final battlefield. The quiet young man from Holmes County was, like so many of his fellows, already a hardened combat veteran at the age of 19.
Thus, the men of Company B's 3rd Platoon considered their Oct. 22, 1965, patrol near Phu Cuong routine. As they moved through jungle brush, they tried to spot Viet Cong operating in the area. At different times, they were under varying degrees of enemy fire, sometimes pinned down temporarily. Olive, by all accounts a good-humored, hardworking soldier, was constantly up front, exposing himself to enemy fire.
Olive and four others, including his platoon commander, were quietly and steadily pursuing one band of Viet Cong through the tangled growth. Suddenly, one of the enemy turned and threw a hand grenade into the middle of the platoon.
Olive dashed forward and grabbed the grenade. Yelling "I've got it," he tucked it into his middle and moved away from the others, falling on the grenade and absorbing the full blast.
Embry played along the defensive front for the Bulldogs the last two seasons. As a sophomore, Embry finished with 31 tackles including two broken up passes. As a freshman, he had six tackles including one sack and one broken up pass.
"I feel honored receiving it knowing the person it's named after did an encouraging thing by sacrificing himself to save his team," said Embry.
"I enjoyed my time here at Holmes," he said. "It taught me a lot of lessons about life and different things and how to handle different situations."
"We use him (Olive) as a rallying cry for our team, and we would like to keep his story out there," Holmes Head Coach Jeff Koonz said. "He was the first Medal of Honor winner in the Vietnam War and grew up right down the street.
"That courage and character goes to Charvez Embry. He started every game for us. He had some nagging injuries and never complained. He kept grinding and exemplifies what that Milton Lee Olive Courage and Character Award is all about. We are proud for what he's done here."
Embry has some options next season but has not decided where he will transfer to next season.