Forty-six years ago, a soldier was wounded in Vietnam.
SPC Robert French was a Radiotelephone Operator with the 47th Infantry Regiment, 9th Infantry Division. He fought in Vietnam. He was wounded in action on 19 June 1967, during a 3-day battle near Ap Bac in the Mekong Delta.
French received a Purple Heart for his wound. However, he and three other soldiers had performed exceptionally during the battle. They were submitted for a Bronze Star Medal for their actions during the battle by their chain of command – specifically, by their Platoon Leader.
Unfortunately, in a regrettably too-common occurrence the paperwork was lost. At the end of his tour SPC French went home. And normally, that would have been the end of things.
Except . . .
Fast forward thirty-some years. In a reunion a decade or so ago, French ran into his former Platoon Leader – then-1LT Jack Benedict. Benedict asked him if he’d ever received his BSM for his actions at Ap Bac.
On finding out that French and the others had not, Benedict contacted his Congressman, Representative Gus Bilirakis. Though it took a while, with Rep. Bilirakis’ help the Army was convinced to right an old wrong and award the long-overdue medals.
Robert French received his Bronze Star yesterday at MacDill AFB, FL. It was presented by MG Karl Horst, the CENTCOM Chief of Staff.
Unfortunately, Benedict was unable to attend. He now has Parkinson’s disease, and was unable to travel to Tampa for the ceremony.
Somehow, I don’t think Benedict is too bothered by the fact that he couldn’t attend. I’m guessing that knowing that his men were finally taken care of is enough for him.
Well done, 1LT Jack Benedict. You were obviously one of the good “LTs.”
And kudos as well to Representative Gus Bilirakis. I can see why the VFW named him their 2012 VFW Legislator of the Year.