Specialist 5 Dwight W. Birdwell was born in Amarillo, Texas, 19 January 1948, grew up in the small rural town of Bell in Adair County, Oklahoma, and graduated from Stilwell High School in 1966. He is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. He entered the Army 24 May 1966, earning two Silver Stars and two Purple Hearts for his courageous action and leadership in Vietnam.
Birdwell was assigned to Troop C, 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry, 25th Infantry Division. SP5 Birdwell received the Silver Star for heroism on 31 January 1968 when his unit raced to defend Tan Son Nhut Air Base which was under Communist attack during the Tet Offensive. Cavalry Troop C was the first American ground unit from outside the airbase to respond to the attack. Birdwell's tank commander was seriously wounded. Birdwell took command and placed intense fire on the enemy until his ammunition was expended. He retrieved an M-60 machine gun and continued shooting at the enemy until the weapon was damaged by enemy fire, which also wounded Birdwell. With disregard for his own safety, he ran through a hail of enemy fire to get more ammunition for his men from other damaged vehicles. "His actions contributed to success of the mission," his Silver Star citation stated.
On 4 July 1968 he again risked his life to rescue more Americans, some of them wounded, who were stranded in a battle zone. Seeing a damaged Army Personnel Carrier, he exposed himself to heavy enemy fire to load all the wounded and evacuate them to safety. He went back to rescue more Americans. He was awarded his second Silver Star for bravery.
Judge Birdwell was a member of the Judicial Appeals Tribunal (Supreme Court) of the Cherokee Nation 1987-1999, serving as its chief justice 1995–1996 and 1998–1999. He is now a practicing attorney in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.