Face of Defense: Vietnam Vet Regains Long-lost Bronze Star

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md., Aug. 30, 2011 — More than 40 years ago, Army 1st Lt. Robert C. Berk­shire earned a Bronze Star Medal for val­or dur­ing his ser­vice in Viet­nam.

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Army 1st Lt. Robert C. Berk­shire takes a break dur­ing his deploy­ment to Viet­nam in 1970. Berk­shire recent­ly received a new Bronze Star Medal — the orig­i­nal had been stolen along with his duf­fle bag at the end of his Viet­nam tour of duty — to replace the one he’d earned more than 40 years ago.
Cour­tesy pho­to
Click to enlarge

On his way state­side fol­low­ing his Viet­nam tour of duty, Berkshire’s duf­fel bag was stolen — in the duf­fel bag was his Bronze Star. He nev­er saw his medal again. After his hon­or­able dis­charge from the Army in 1971, Berk­shire nev­er said any­thing to his fam­i­ly or friends about the loss of his award. How­ev­er, about a year ago, the sub­ject of his mil­i­tary career came up while he was talk­ing with David Kurk, a friend and fel­low civil­ian employ­ee in the lab­o­ra­to­ry at the U.S. Army Pub­lic Health Com­mand here.

Berk­shire told his friend about the loss of his Bronze Star and showed him the award cer­tifi­cate.

Berk­shire explained that in June 1970 he and his pla­toon had flanked and destroyed an ene­my posi­tion. Under heavy ene­my fire, he’d also direct­ed a med­ical evac­u­a­tion of two wound­ed pla­toon mem­bers. Kurk was deter­mined to see if he could help his friend be rec­og­nized for his hero­ic actions dur­ing the oper­a­tion in Viet­nam and replace his stolen medal.

Work­ing with Berkshire’s daugh­ter, Alyson Berk­shire, Kurk took action to have his friend rec­og­nized.

“No one in the fam­i­ly had heard about Dad’s Bronze Star,” Alyson said. “My par­ents have always been my heroes, and I want­ed to make sure Dad could be hon­ored as one.”

Work­ing with Com­mand Sgt. Maj. Ger­ald C. Eck­er, the Pub­lic Health Command’s com­mand sergeant major, Alyson and Kurk pro­vid­ed the paper­work nec­es­sary to secure a replace­ment Bronze Star. Lovet­ta Brit­ton, the command’s pro­to­col offi­cer, arranged a sur­prise award cer­e­mo­ny.

On Aug. 17, Army Brig. Gen. Tim­o­thy K. Adams, com­man­der of the Pub­lic Health com­mand, host­ed the award cer­e­mo­ny to hon­or Berkshire’s hero­ism. Berk­shire was told his daugh­ter was receiv­ing an award, and that he was invit­ed to par­tic­i­pate in the cer­e­mo­ny.

Dur­ing the cer­e­mo­ny, Adams turned to the Army vet­er­an. “I under­stand you were in the Army and served in Viet­nam,” he said, “and I heard that you also lost some­thing.”

Berk­shire, still unaware of the sur­prise pre­sen­ta­tion, thought Adams was refer­ring to his recent hip surgery and replied, “Yes, I lost a piece of my hip.” Adams then told Berk­shire he’d receive a new Bronze Star Medal to replace the one stolen from him more than 40 years before.

“Your ser­vice to our coun­try should be remem­bered and cel­e­brat­ed,” Adams said. “It is my priv­i­lege to give you this award for your ser­vice.”

Berk­shire said he was stunned by the commander’s words and the stand­ing ova­tion from friends, fam­i­ly and co-work­ers at the award pre­sen­ta­tion.

“For you and every­one else to work so hard in replac­ing the medal that was so pre­cious to me and that I thought I would nev­er see again, I was basi­cal­ly speech­less,” Berk­shire said to the gen­er­al. “Please accept my deep­est grat­i­tude for your gra­cious act.”

Eck­er summed up the event’s pur­pose.

“When an act of self­less ser­vice to our nation has been ful­filled, it is nev­er too late to ren­der hon­ors and grat­i­tude for the ser­vice,” he said.

Source:
U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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