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After a recent We Honor Veterans program honor visit with Sgt. Fred Pike of Rineyville and hearing his background, Hosparus Health volunteer Louis Mattingly was eager to share the Air Force veteran’s story.

“He has a history that no one really knows about,” Mattingly said. A former Air Force veteran himself, Mattingly said he immediately wanted to share and tell others he met a “hero.” However, due confidentiality, he had to keep it to himself until permission was given.

Once that permission was given, Mattingly’s praise for Fred Pike, who spent five years as a crew chief in the Air Force and served about a year-and-a-half in Vietnam (roughly 1966-71), was enormous.

Last week, while sitting on the back porch of Pike’s home, with his wife, Carmel Pike, and brother, Dr. Sam Pike, Mattingly continued to express his praise. He said that during his previous visit, Fred Pike offered to show him his combat ribbons and other memorabilia, which included his Green Hornets 20th Special Operations Squadron patch.

“When I saw Green Hornets I was like a kid at Christmas. I was doing the happy dance. I have met a Green Hornet that actually left Hurlburt Field,” Mattingly said.

According to Mattingly, the Green Hornets were a special unit of the Air Force’s Air Commandos. They would go “over the fence” — places they weren’t supposed to go, he said, like Cambodia and Laos.

“The deepest I ever run over the fence was 65 miles,” Fred Pike said. If anything had happened “over the fence,” he said you were on your own.

According to Mattingly, the CIA would have said, “Pike? We don’t know a Pike.”

“If they went down, they were done. Nobody would have known what happened to them,” Carmel Pike said.

Fred Pike, a native of Hardin County, never talked much about his service during the war. His family learned only bits and pieces over the years. He described it as “a hell of an experience.”

While carrying out missions, Fred Pike was a door gunner. Mattingly said that meant Fred Pike was in the back of the Huey shooting and getting shot at “with bullets all around him.”

For one such mission, Fred Pike was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. According to the citation accompanying the award, Pike distinguished himself by extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight as a UH-IN Helicopter Gunner near Duc Lap, Republic of Vietnam, on July 9, 1971. On that date, the citation said Pike “executed numerous devastating firing passes at treetop level in support of the capture of intelligence data and equipment from opposing forces deep in hostile territory.”

“Despite intense antiaircraft fire, the accurate and lethal ordinance directed by Sergeant Pike was instrumental in the successful completion of the mission. The professional competence, aerial skill, and devotion to duty displayed by Sergeant Pike reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Airforce,” the citation said.

Sam Pike, who went to Bellarmine College in the fall of 1969, said he and his brother would exchange letters. When his brother told him he was going on missions, Sam Pike said at the time he didn’t know what that meant.

“I had no clue what a mission was. I just figured they were just doing some training or whatnot,” he said. “Little did I know while I was worried about my next physics test in an air-conditioned dorm room, Fred’s over there, treetop level, protecting our soldiers, dropping them off and picking them up and seeing all the stuff going on that I had no clue about it. … While I’m there in my comfortable class, he’s over there getting shot at. We didn’t know all that until Fred came back and years after that when it came out.”

Sam Pike also noted that though Fred Pike finished his four-year commitment to the military and was due to come home, he re-upped for another year. He did this to keep his other two younger brothers, who were in the Army, from having to go to Vietnam.

“At that time, they weren’t allowing more than one brother to go to Vietnam,” Sam Pike said. “Fred joined to keep Bob and Steve from being exposed. They were probably more on the grunt level. … Fred was getting shot at enough, but Fred recognized the risk of them going over there so he joined another year of hell to keep his brothers from having to go.”

Sam Pike recently retired after 40 years of practicing medicine. He said that wouldn’t have been possible without those, like his brother and others, who paid the price, if not with their life, then with their emotions and physical health.

“They pay a price so that we can do what we do here,” he said. “… Fred is one of my heroes.”

According to Hosparus Health Volunteer Manager Annette Jones, the We Honor Veterans program through Hosparus Health seeks to recognize and thank veterans, like Fred Pike, who are in their care.

At times, veterans comprise some 20 to 25% of their patient population, Jones said, adding they seek to address the special needs of veteran patients from medical, emotional, and spiritual standpoints.

As part of the We Honor Veterans program, Hosparus Health veteran volunteers present veteran patients with a certificate of appreciation, a proud veteran lapel pin, and a patriotic care blanket, also made by volunteers.


Our We Honor Veterans program is a collaboration of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) and the Department of Veterans Affairs. With their help, we help streamline the referral and admission process, educate our staff and communities about end-of-life needs for veterans, and coordinate care with the VA and other organizations. We also provide veteran-to-veteran volunteer programs, and connect veterans and their families with community resources. Hosparus Health is proud to be a level 4 We Honor Veterans partner.

This story was originally published in The News Enterprise here.


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