Cemetery information provided by findagrave contributor Tom Reece. Many thanks to him for that information.
Many thanks to ObitsHelp for the information regarding the maternal lineage.
Combat Infantry Badge Distinguished Service Cross Silver Star Distinguished Flying Cross Purple Heart
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918 (amended by act of July 25, 1963), takes pride in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross (Posthumously) to Private First Class Michael Dominic Paonessa (ASN: US-51835814), United States Army, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations involving conflict with an armed hostile force in the Republic of Vietnam, while serving with Troop D (ARP), 3d Squadron, 5th Cavalry, 9th Infantry Division. Private First Class Paonessa distinguished himself by exceptionally valorous actions on 18 October 1968 while serving as a radio operator on a reconnaissance in force mission west of Cai Lay. His platoon suddenly came under intense fire from a large and well entrenched Viet Cong force, Unmindful of his own safety, Private Paonessa remained exposed to the fusillade, returning fire and using his radio to relay information to the command helicopter. When one of the squad leaders was severely wounded, he called for a rescue aircraft and further exposed himself to the barrage of hostile fire to direct the ship with hand signals. As the helicopter landed, the communists began a rocket and mortar attack. Completely ignoring the rounds bursting all around him, he provided suppressive fire while the casualties were loaded. As the craft lifted off it was hit by an enemy rocket. Seeing that the ship was falling toward the platoon leader, Private Paonessa pushed him to safety, but was himself pinned by the wreckage. He realized that another aircraft would be needed to free him and demanded that the rest of his platoon pull back while he covered the withdrawal. Although he was severely wounded, he kept the Viet Cong away from the helicopter until a rescue party was able to reach him. He was taken to a hospital where he died from his injuries. Private First Class Paonessa's extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty, at the cost of his life, were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army. General Orders: Headquarters, U.S. Army, Vietnam, General Orders No. 5831 (December 23, 1968)