Assembly honors Nesbitt for service as pilot in Vietnam

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 27 January 2014 at 12:00 am

Provided photo – State Assemblyman Steve Hawley, left, presents former Assemblyman Charles Nesbitt with the resolution that was passed in honor of Nesbitt’s receiving the Distinguished Flying Cross for his heroic rescue of a soldier during the Vietnam War.

ALBANY – For the first time in more than eight years, Charlie Nesbitt was back in the State Assembly chambers today.

Nesbitt, the area’s former assemblyman for 13 years, was invited to the state capitol today to be honored by the Assembly, where he was the leader of the Republican conference.

But today’s recognition was for Nesbitt’s heroic actions in 1968, when he was a helicopter pilot in the Vietnam War.

The Assembly today passed a Legislative Resolution, recognizing Nesbitt for receiving the Distinguished Flying Cross. He was presented with that medal in August during a reunion of the 57th Assault Helicopter Company.

The Assembly, including Speaker Sheldon Silver, gave Nesbitt two standing ovations today and read the Legislative Resolution, detailing his heroics on Nov. 14, 1968. That day he was tasked with extracting a Special Forces unit out of Laos.

Under enemy fire after one chopper crashed in the jungle, Nesbitt picked up the crew of the downed aircraft and left. Then the crew discovered that one man, John Grimaldi, had been left behind. Though low on fuel, Nesbitt turned his helicopter around and successfully rescued Grimaldi under intense enemy fire. Nesbitt was 20 at the time.

Silver presented Nesbitt with the honor along with State Assemblyman Steve Hawley of Batavia, Majority Leader Joe Morelle and Minority Leader Brian Kolb.

“It was very nice,” Nesbitt said. “I saw a lot of old friends.”

The Assembly resolution follows a similar from the state Senate last week. State Sen. George Maziarz sponsored that resolution.

Hawley was among the speakers in the Assembly today, detailing Nesbitt’s life-saving rescue in the Vietnam War.

“It was a humbling honor to speak about Charlie’s heroics during the Vietnam War,” Hawley said. “His life is a shining example of service and sacrifice on behalf of his country, and I hope that as his successor, I have fulfilled that legacy.”

Nesbitt, a Barre resident, was elected in 1992 and served until late 2005. He left Albany as leader of the Republicans in the Assembly. He resigned and was appointed president and commissioner of the state Tax Appeals Tribunal.

He received the Distinguished Flying Cross at a ceremony at the Clarion hotel in Batavia in August. Some of his crew members attended that ceremony.

“The Distinguished Flying Cross is one of the highest honors a pilot can receive,” Hawley said. “It is our duty to make sure that the story of his heroics is told so that future generations may be inspired to serve their country.”