Nov. 26, 1944 – Dec. 15, 2012
Melvin L. Hawkins, of Buffalo, a Vietnam veteran who risked heavy enemy fire to carry wounded U.S. soldiers to safety and was awarded the Silver Star for his gallantry, died Saturday in his Buffalo home. He was 68.
The Buffalo native was a 1964 graduate of East High School and worked various jobs in Buffalo prior to joining the Army during the Vietnam War.
He was assigned as a medical technician and sent to Vietnam in 1967 as part of Company A, 2nd Battalion, 18th Infantry, of the First Infantry Division.
Mr. Hawkins was cited for extraordinary heroism on a search and destroy mission near the village of Chanh Luu on Jan. 6, 1968, according to a Buffalo Evening News account of his receiving the Silver Star, one of the nation’s highest military honors. A citation noted that the private first class treated the wounded with complete disregard for his own safety while under heavy enemy sniper fire in dense jungle.
Mr. Hawkins then carried several of his comrades to a helicopter landing zone, continuing to treat them until they were evacuated.
The citation, according to The News story, said that Mr. Hawkins’ actions undoubtedly saved lives. Mr. Hawkins received several other military honors, including the Purple Heart.
Upon his honorable discharge, Mr. Hawkins returned to Buffalo and attended Buffalo State College.
He worked at the Employment Education Center of Buffalo Model Cities and was active in the East Side and in community projects.
Mr. Hawkins, who was often known by his Islamic name, Karim Abdul-Malik, served as a mentor to young people and coached various sports.
He was an expert in African-American and classical music and jazz.
He is survived by two brothers, Calvin and William, and a sister, Linda.
A service will be at 11 a.m. today in An-Noor Islamic Center, 745 Heim Road, Amherst.