Nesbitt will be honored Monday in state capitol

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 24 January 2014 at 12:00 am

Charles Nesbitt

ALBION – Charlie Nesbitt, the area’s State Assemblyman for 13 years, will return to the Assembly chambers on Monday to receive an award.

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.

Long before he joined the Assembly, Nesbitt was a helicopter pilot in Vietnam. In August, 45 years after he served in Vietnam, Nesbitt was awarded a “Distinguished Flying Cross.”

On Monday, the Assembly will recognize him for the distinctive honor. Speaker Sheldon Silver and Minority Conference Leader Brian Kolb both insisted on carrying the bill that will honor Nesbitt, State Assemblyman Steve Hawley said today during a Legislative Luncheon at The Village Inn.

Nesbitt received the “Distinguished Flying Cross” based on his actions on Nov. 14, 1968. That day Nesbitt and his crew members were told an American soldier was stranded in enemy territory in the jungles of Laos, across the border from Vietnam.

Another helicopter had been hit with a rocket and crashed. The crew needed to be rescued. Nesbitt flew a helicopter in and got out everyone, except one gunman, John Grimaldi, who was separated from his crew.

Nesbitt took the recovered crew members back to safety, and then returned to enemy territory to find Grimaldi.

“Charlie took it upon himself to say, ‘We’re gonna go back and get him,’” Jim McKenzie, Nesbitt’s copilot, said on Aug. 24, when Nesbitt received the award at the Clarion in Batavia.

The crew spent 9.2 hours in the air, including 3.5 hours exposed to enemy fire.

“He was in the jungle and we could see him, but we couldn’t get down to get him,” Nesbitt said on Aug. 24.

An onslaught of enemy fire and tiny landing areas made the task difficult. Nesbitt and his crew refueled twice, and the group finally was able to rescue Grimaldi.

The medal citation notes that Nesbitt “flew aircraft in hostile enemy territory on three separate occasions while drawing enemy fire to accomplish the rescue of soldiers and crew members downed by enemy fire. His valorous actions were an inspiration to the officers and men of his unit.”