“If this man bleeds out he’s going to die,” recalled William Gaschler. “I picked him up and carried him off the roof top under intense machine gun fire and got him to safety.”
May 13, 1965, Gaschler served as a sniper team leader with Company A, 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, during Operation Power Pack in the Dominican Republic.
Gaschler and his team were positioned on a rooftop in the heart of Santo Domingo as the All American Division responded to restore order during a civil war. Rebel forces fired on their position and two of his fellow paratroopers were seriously wounded.
“I called for a medic,” said Gaschler, “but under the machine gun fire, the medic could not advance to our position.”
Gaschler directed Emmanuel Block to move to safety, while Gaschler exposed himself to enemy gun fire as he carried Alan Isaacson in his arms away from danger.
Both injured Paratroopers were stabilized and evacuated. Isaacson sustained serious wounds to the neck and eyes, permanently losing his sight.
“My dad risked his own life to save him,” said his daughter Gunda Gaschler Bush. “Isaacson would certainly have died.”
Gaschler’s team fought off the rebel attack and helped set the conditions for democratic elections there. He recalled the stability operation turned into a peacekeeping mission where enemies soon turned friends.
“It was a humanitarian effort that I really enjoyed carrying out, said Gaschler. “We distributed rice, setup medical stations and some of the former rebels actually played baseball with us.”
Fifty-three years later, Gaschler now 79 and a resident of Sanford, North Carolina, received the Bronze Star Medal with Valor for his heroic achievement in a combat zone. The award ceremony took place in the division headquarters July 28, on Fort Bragg.
“Today we gather to recognize William Gaschler and his actions,” said Maj. Gen. Michael E. Kurilla, commanding general of the 82nd Airborne Division, “actions that have been overlooked for more than five decades.”
Kurilla, who presented the award, said the ceremony shined a light on a darkened corner of the All American Legacy and celebrated the thousands of All American Paratroopers who fought in the Dominican Republic.
After the Paratroopers returned from the Dominican Republican, Operation Power Pack was soon overshadowed by the Vietnam War.
“Today, we make things right,” said Kurilla, as he addressed family, friends and many who made the event possible. “Today, William Gaschler serves as a stand-in for the more than 10,000. Today, in recognizing him, we recognize them.”
“We are so grateful my father was recognized while he was still alive,” said Bush. “It’s beyond words.”
“‘I don’t want to die before I get my medal,’” Bush recalled her father saying when she heard her father’s story for the first time in 2014 and decided she had to do something then.
Her journey began. With the help of family and the Veterans’ Legacy Foundation, which helps veterans and their families obtain the recognition they deserve, they ensured Gaschler was recognized for his selfless act of heroism and valor.
“I always felt like I earned it and deserved it, but I thought that I would have to go in my grave without it,” said Gaschler. “Now I have received it and I really feel great.”