Vietnam vet gets Bronze Star earned 40 years ago
August 23, 2011
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md., Aug. 23, 2011 -- More than 40 years ago, 1st Lt. Robert C. Berkshire earned a Bronze Star for valor in Vietnam. On his way home in 1971, 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 employee in the laboratory at the U.S. Army Public Health Command. Berkshire told his friend about the loss of his Bronze Star and showed him the certificate from the award.
Berkshire explained that in June 1970 he and his platoon flanked and destroyed an enemy position, and under heavy fire he had also directed a medical evacuation of two 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 before Robert Berkshire retired from civilian service.
"No one in the family had heard about dad's Bronze Star," explained Alyson Berkshire. "My parents have always been my heroes, and I wanted to make sure Dad could be honored as one."
Working with USAPHC Command Sgt. Maj. Gerald C. Ecker, Alyson Berkshire and Kurk provided the supporting paperwork necessary to secure a replacement Bronze Star. Lovetta Britton, command protocol officer, assisted by arranging a surprise award ceremony.
On Aug. 17, Brig. Gen. Timothy K. Adams, USAPHC commander, hosted the award ceremony to honor Berkshire's heroism. Robert Berkshire was told his daughter was receiving an award and was invited to participate in recognizing her.
Addressing Robert Berkshire, Adams said, "I understand you were in the Army and served in Vietnam, and I heard that you also lost something."
Robert 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 explained that Robert Berkshire would receive a Bronze Star to replace the one stolen from him more than 40 years before.
"Your service to our country should be remembered and celebrated," said Adams. "It is my privilege to give you this award for your service."
Berkshire was visibly stunned by the commander's words and the standing ovation from friends, family and coworkers who attended the award presentation.
"For you (Adams) 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," Robert Berkshire said. "Please accept my deepest gratitude for your gracious act."
Ecker summed up the event by saying, "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."