b. 22/09/1949 Mount Vernon, Illinois. d. 29/11/1991 Fairfield, Illinois.
DATE OF MOH ACTION: 07/05/1970 Thua Thien Province, Republic of Vietnam.
Denied status as a conscientious objector, Kays fled to Canada to avoid getting drafted for military service in Vietnam until the US Army guaranteed he would be able to serve as a medic. Kays joined the Army from Fairfield, Illinois, and by May 7, 1970 was serving as a private in the Headquarters Company of 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division. During a firefight on that day, in Tha Thiên–Hu Province, Republic of Vietnam, Kays repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire in order to treat wounded soldiers, even after losing his lower left leg to an explosion. He was subsequently promoted to private first class and awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions.
Kays left the Army while still a private first class. His later life was very tragic. He spent time in mental hospitals and struggled with addiction. He took his own life at age 42 and was buried in Maple Hill Cemetery, Fairfield, Illinois. In 2006, Randy K. Mills published a book, Troubled Hero: A Medal of Honor, Vietnam, and the War at Home, detailing Kays's life in Fairfield, Illinois through the Vietnam War.
For conspicuous gallantry intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Pfc. (then Pvt.) Kays distinguished himself while serving as a medical aidman with Company D, 1st Battalion, 101st Airborne Division near Fire Support Base Maureen. A heavily armed force of enemy sappers and infantrymen assaulted Company D's night defensive position, wounding and killing a number of its members. Disregarding the intense enemy fire and ground assault, Pfc. Kays began moving toward the perimeter to assist his fallen comrades. In doing so he became the target of concentrated enemy fire and explosive charges, 1 of which severed the lower portion of his left leg. After applying a tourniquet to his leg, Pfc. Kays moved to the fire-swept perimeter, administered medical aid to 1 of the wounded, and helped move him to an area of relative safety. Despite his severe wound and excruciating pain, Pfc. Kays returned to the perimeter in search of other wounded men. He treated another wounded comrade, and, using his own body as a shield against enemy bullets and fragments, moved him to safety. Although weakened from a great loss of blood, Pfc. Kays resumed his heroic lifesaving efforts by moving beyond the company's perimeter into enemy held territory to treat a wounded American lying there. Only after his fellow wounded soldiers had been treated and evacuated did Pfc. Kays allow his own wounds to be treated. These courageous acts by Pfc. Kays resulted in the saving of numerous lives and inspired others in his company to repel the enemy. Pfc. Kays' heroism at the risk of his life are in keeping with the highest traditions of the service and reflect great credit on him, his unit, and the U.S. Army.
BURIAL LOCATION: MAPLE HILL CEMETERY, FAIRFIELD, ILLINOIS.
Veterans Section, Grave 377
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