Korean War Veteran Recognized for Combat Valor
February 16, 2007
FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas (Army News Service, Feb. 16, 2007) - A Korean War veteran was awarded the Bronze Star with "V" device Feb. 2, more than 50 years after he risked his own life to save the lives of his fellow Soldiers.
Brig. Gen. P. K. Keen, commander, U.S. Army South, presented the medal to 77-year-old Silvestre Acebedo in front of a crowd of family and friends at the Army Medical Department Museum. When awarded for bravery, the medal is the fourth highest combat award of the U.S. Armed Forces.
"It's never too late to recognize a great contribution to our nation," said Keen at the ceremony. "This awards ceremony is an opportunity for us to reflect on the selfless efforts of countless men and women who have answered the call to service in far away places and ... who have performed valiantly, such as Silvestre Acebedo."
Six veterans who served with Acebedo during the Korean War attended the ceremony.
Maj. Gen. Russell Czerw, installation commander, also attended the ceremony to pay tribute to the heroic Soldier. He felt compelled to speak when he saw the other Korean War veterans in attendance. "We can't do anything alone; we're part of a team," he said to the veterans. "Thank you for your service."
Acebedo distinguished himself in August 1950 while serving as a platoon commander with the 2nd Infantry Division in the Republic of Korea. The corporal's platoon was ordered to help extract Companies I and K, 9th Regimental Combat Team, from an enemy ambush. When a fellow crew member was wounded, Acebedo manned all four .50 caliber machine guns on an M-16 vehicle while under heavy enemy fire. According to the citation, his bravery significantly contributed to the safe extraction of the infantry troops, with only three wounded.
"The Korean War is often referred to as the forgotten war, but we have not forgotten," Keen said. "... because of the efforts of individual Soldiers, such as Mr. Acebedo, we were able to protect the Republic of South Korea from being overtaken - a nation that has since developed into a stalwart democracy, a powerful economic force and a committed ally to the U.S."
Acebedo's heroism, while appreciated by his fellow Soldiers, fell by the wayside during what Keen called "a fierce and difficult war." His family later battled to get him the recognition he deserved, but met with little success, until they met Col. Ralph Hockley.
"We were in the same outfit," said Hockley, president of the Second Infantry Division-Korean War Veterans Alliance. "We met at a reunion three years ago. He told me his story and said no one would listen."
Hockley, who had assisted others with obtaining medals, asked Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, of Texas, to assist with the medal quest. The medal was approved a short time after. "To get a medal, you have to have done something beyond the call of duty. Anyone who does that is deserving of a medal," said Hockley, also a recipient of the Bronze Star with "V" device.
"Sometimes in our military, our bureaucracy moves slow, sometimes slower than other times," Keen said. "But today is evidence that it nevertheless does move. We are accomplishing a mission by recognizing a true hero who has given to our country and is evidence that the fight goes on in recognizing our heroes who have served our country.
"Wars are not won by machines such as tanks, aircraft missiles or weapons systems, they are won by individual Soldiers and other servicemen and women," Keen added. "We are evidence today that it is men like Mr. Acebedo who stand up and put boots on the ground and defend our country when it calls."
Acebedo said he was honored to receive the recognition, especially with two generals present. He added that he is still ready to serve. "If I was young, I'd go to Iraq. I might do it."
Czerw said he doesn't doubt it for a moment. "If we could put a uniform on him, I think he would come back."
(Elaine Wilson writes for the Fort Sam Houston Public Information Office.)