Texas veteran awarded Bronze Star for Vietnam service
July 26, 2013
CAMP MABRY, Texas (July 26, 2013) -- In the winter of 1967, a young draftee, only recently graduated from high school, completed Army basic training and received orders to fight overseas in the burgeoning Vietnam conflict. His yearlong service there, punctuated by combat, tragedy, and acts of bravery, would go unrecognized for almost half a century. Fast forward to July 12, 2013, when Sgt. Jimmie S. Salazar of the 4th Battalion, 47th Infantry Regiment, 9th Infantry Division, received the fifth highest combat decoration for an American service member in a ceremony at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas.
"It's finally here, and I'm glad," said Salazar, who served as a rifleman and squad leader with Company C in Vietnam. "I was just worried I wasn't going to get it before I died."
Forty-five years after leaving the jungle where he "consistently displayed exceptional performance with rapid assessments and solutions against determined hostile fighters," as noted in the citation, Salazar was more than ready to receive his Bronze Star medal. In attendance at the ceremony were members of his family, fellow Vietnam veterans, and key leaders from within the Texas Military Forces, including the Texas Army National Guard Commander, Major Gen. William Smith, who pinned Salazar's medal during the ceremony.
"I'm just glad that everybody turned up, especially my nephews who are in the service right now," said Salazar. "I've got one getting ready to deploy to Afghanistan and one just got back. I'm really happy to see them serve their country the way I did."
The Bronze Star decoration, established in 1944, is awarded for distinguishing service marked by heroic or meritorious achievements. For Salazar, this meant taking care of his Soldiers and being ready for what the mission required of him.
"During basic training they informed us of where we were going so we were all ready," Salazar said. "You couldn't do anything about it but be ready. I just played it day by day."
Salazar's Bronze Star Medal marks the fourth such award presented among the 12 surviving members of his original team from his 40-man team.
"My platoon leader put in the Bronze star recommendation back in September of 67 and then he got transferred out to another unit," said Salazar. "The paperwork just fell through the cracks and everyone just forgot about it until about 12 years ago during a company reunion. We were talking about medals that we had gotten and he told us that he had put all in because there were only 12 of us originals left and he put all 12 of us in for the medal. He started digging up this paperwork and finally he came across the orders that he had turned in. From then on, it took about three years to get the medals."
Supporting him throughout the ordeal was U.S. Congressman Lamar Smith, from Texas' 21st district.
"We were most happy to help him verify the various documents that we needed to so that he would get his bronze star medal, which is clearly overdue, but well-deserved," said Smith. "We're just happy to be a part of the process."
This process, thankfully, is now complete for Salazar, who will continue to enjoy his retirement with his wife Mary in their Blanco County home.