Week of October 15
Paul Hellstrom Foster was born in April 1939 in San Mateo, California. He joined the Marine Corps in San Francisco at the age of 22, in November 1961. Foster deployed to Vietnam at the end of 1966 and eventually was assigned to the 2d Battalion, 4th Marines, as the artillery liaison operations chief.
Early in the morning on October 14, 1967, Sergeant Foster and his battalion were dug in and defending a bridge near Cồn Tiên, in I Corps, when they came under heavy North Vietnamese mortar and artillery fire. An enemy ground assault followed, and North Vietnamese troops managed to reach and penetrate the Marines’ perimeter. While at his post furiously directing fire support, Sergeant Foster was wounded by shrapnel from a North Vietnamese grenade. He nonetheless continued directing mortar and artillery fire on the assaulting forces, requiring him to remain in a highly exposed position.
As the battle raged on, an enemy grenade landed within feet of Foster and five other Marines. Foster quickly shouted a warning and threw his flak jacket over the grenade, then placed his body over the jacket just as the grenade exploded. Foster was mortally wounded, receiving the entire force of the explosion, but his actions undoubtedly saved his five comrades.
Sergeant Foster was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his selfless sacrifice and devotion to his fellow Marines that day. In addition, Foster’s decorations include the Purple Heart and the Presidential Unit Citation, among others. His name is listed on Panel 27E, Row 108 of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.1
1“Foster, Paul Hellstrom,” Medal of Honor Recipients: Vietnam War, U.S. Army Center of Military History, http://www.history.army.mil/moh/vietnam-a-l.html (accessed 10/14/15); “Sergeant Paul Hellstrom Foster, USMCR,” United States Marine Corps History Division, http://www.mcu.usmc.mil/historydivision/Pages/Who's%20Who/D-F/Foster_PH.aspx (accessed 10/14/15); “Paul Hellstrom Foster,” Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, http://www.vvmf.org/Wall-of-Faces/16832/PAUL-H-FOSTER accessed 10/14/15).