Vietnam vet receives medal decades after service

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by QUITA CULPEPPER / KVUE News and photojournalist CHRISTIAN GARCIA

kvue.com

Posted on July 12, 2013 at 6:29 PM

Updated Friday, Jul 12 at 6:41 PM

AUSTIN -- Nearly five decades after serving his country, a soldier finally got the recognition he deserves.

Friday, Sergeant Jimmie Salazar, who's leadership helped save the lives of his fellow soldiers, was formally recognized and honored for his service all those years ago.

In January of 1967, 19-year-old Salazar went to fight in Vietnam.

“I had just gotten married. I got married before we left,” Salazar said. “I kept that in my mind, thinking of nothing but that and coming home.”

He served as a rifleman and squad team leader until January of 1968.

“I never let it get to me. People let it get to them. They didn't last long,” Salazar said. “I made it.”

Sgt. Salazar's days spent fighting overseas are long since finished. Forty-six years later, his wife, along with dozens of family and friends, were at Camp Mabry to honor his service and watch him be awarded the Bronze Star.

It's given to someone who distinguishes himself by heroic achievement while serving with the U.S. Army.

Salazar's platoon leader sent in paperwork for the medals for his unit in 1968. Somehow the paperwork got lost. Twelve years ago, the men realized they'd never gotten their medals.

“There was a lot of red tape going through Washington and the Department of the Army,” Salazar said.

Salazar's platoon leader resubmitted the medal requests a few years ago. He passed away before they got approved.

Texas Congress Lamar Smith was in attendance to honor Salazar’s service. “Here's a young man straight out of high school going to Vietnam, sacrificing his life for others, and doing so in such a way that was so brave and courageous in so many ways,” Smith said. “This is the least we can do for him is to give him this bronze medal.”

The Austin City Council also honored Salazar, along with his wife, who presented him with a certificate from Blanco County where he lives.

The former soldier whose grandson is about to leave for Afghanistan, says the ceremony let him know his service and sacrifice made a difference, and he'll wear his bronze medal proudly. 

“It's finally here, and I'm glad. I was just worried I wasn't going to get it before I died,” Salazar said.

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