Remembering Joel's Act of Heroism 50 Years Later
Lawrence Joel
Nov. 8, 2015

Wake Forest Athletic Communications (@DemonDeacons)

Sunday, Nov. 8 marks the 50th anniversary of Lawrence Joel's act of heroism in the Vietnam War that earned the Winston-Salem native the Congressional Medal of Honor. Joel, an Army medic, served the United States in both the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

On Nov. 8, 1965, Joel's battalion of paratroopers went on an all-day patrol to search for Viet Cong soldiers and Joel received two wounds from VC machine gun fire. He did not abandon his duty to the wounded, however.

After receiving his first wound, Joel bandaged himself and gave himself a shot of morphine before going back to working on wounded paratroopers in his unit. He attended to 13 wounded troops, saving the life of one soldier who had suffered a serious chest wound, before his supplies were exhausted.

Joel then got more supplies and, under heavy fire, began to attend to wounded troops from another company before the fighting came to an end, 12 hours after it began. Throughout the fighting, he ignored warnings to stay out of the line of fire and continued attending to the wounded men.

Joel, who spent three months in hospitals in Saigon and Tokyo recovering from wounds to his right thigh and calf, received the Silver Star. On March 9, 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson presented the Congressional Medal of Honor, the nation's highest combat award, to Joel.

Joel passed away due to complications from diabetes in 1984. He was born in Winston-Salem in 1928 and was educated in Winston-Salem elementary and junior high schools before attending Atkins High School.

He served for one year in the Merchant Marines and, in 1946, enlisted in the U.S. Army at the age of 18. He retired from military service in 1973.

In February 1986, the Winston-Salem Board of Aldermen voted to name the city's new arena "Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum" in honor of Joel and all other Forsyth County veterans who died in service to their country. Both the Wake Forest men's and women's basketball teams call the Coliseum home.

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