By Wayne Gates –
Four veterans recently received medals they had earned decades ago at a public ceremony at the Ohio Veteran’s Home.
Second District Congressman Brad Wenstrup was on hand to present the medals and thank the men for their service.
“The United States has sent some of our finest people to protect us and to defend this great country. Our veterans deserve the best, deserve to be honored and deserve to be appreciated,” Wenstrup said.
“When you serve, you simply step up and say ‘I’ll go where others won’t go. And I’ll do what others won’t do. And I’ll put my life on the line to do it. And at the end of the day, I’m not going to ask anything from those who give nothing.’ And that is a tremendous self-sacrifice that we can all be proud of.”
Wenstrup also talked about the difficulties of serving during the Korea and Vietnam eras as the four men did.
“We buckled down as a country and we endured a cold war. And we broke ‘em. The result of your efforts led to many countries being liberated from the Soviet Union and giving them a chance at democracy and freedom. That’s what you did. And that you can be proud of,” Wenstrup told the men.
“It’s my honor to assist each of these recipients to obtain the medals that they have earned and it’s a privilege to present these medals to you today.”
The first recipient was United States Air Force veteran Joseph Farrell, who entered service in January of 1966 as a dental specialist.
Farrell talked about his service with a voice breaking with emotion.
“I was fortunate enough to be in a unit that was proven in combat. In 1968, the VC tried to overrun (our) airbase. At a bunker, five of the guys of our unit got killed. So I’m proud to have served and I’m proud to say to you that I did something positive for the Vietnamese…To all veterans here, thank you for your service.”
Farrell was awarded the Air Force Commendation Medal, Air Force Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal, and Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm.
Next to be honored was Richard Mallon, who enlisted in the United States Navy on August 6, 1953.
Mallon said, “A lot of people don’t know what the cold war was. We did not fight battles like many of these ladies and gentlemen (in the veteran’s home) have done in the past. We were kind of the shadows of military service…I’m proud to be a member of the military.”
He was presented with the Navy Good Conduct Medal and National Defense Service Medal.
Next was Frank Skidmore, who enlisted in the United States Army on April 4, 1966.
Skidmore talked about coming back to the United States after serving overseas and readjusting to life back home.
“If everybody is just living normal lives and worried about the kids in school and other normal things, then the military is doing its job and we all owe them a debt of thanks,” Skidmore said.
He served in the infantry as a parachutist and was presented with the Bronze Star with Air Medal, Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal with four bronze star attachments, Republic of Vietnam Campaign Ribbon, Expert Badge and Rifle Bar, Marksman Badge and Pistol Bar, Parachutist Badge and the Pathfinder Badge.
The bronze star attachments on the Vietnam Service Medal indicate involvement under fire in four major conflicts with the enemy.
Finally, Daryl Smith was honored for his service in the United States Navy beginning August 8, 1973.
Smith participated in Operation Frequent Wind, which was the evacuation of seven thousand americans and vietnamese, right before the country fell to North Vietnam.
“I was on one of the last choppers to fly out of Da Nang. It was very hard to give up your seat, but we had a lot of POW’s and a lot of people who needed it. I did get out eventually, but we rescued a lot of POW’s who looked like walking ghosts and a lot of the vietnamese that did help us,” Smith said.
“The true heroes are the ones we left behind. I consider myself one of the lucky ones. I got to have a family and a lot of those guys gave all that up. I would also like to thank my wife Teresa who stood beside me when things were tough when I first got out.”
He was presented with the National Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Meritorious Unit Commendation Ribbon, Humanitarian Service Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon and the Navy and Marine Corps Service Ribbon.
Following the ceremony, Wenstrup talked about the emotion that the men obviously felt when talking about events from decades before.
“I get it because it happens to me (as a veteran). The human emotions that come from war are unique to those that serve…Twenty or thirty years later it still brings back the same emotions.”
Wenstrup also echoed the sentiments of the men when he talked about the sacrifice of serving as a combat surgeon during the Iraq War.
“If what we saw and did is part of Americans feeling safe and secure then it’s worth it,” Wenstrup said.