Retired Officer receives Legion of Merit Award -- 40 years later
September 29, 2011
FORT LEE, Va. (Sept. 29, 2011)-- Well-wishers gathered for the latest NCO induction ceremony were treated to extra pomp and circumstance at the Regimental Club Friday.
Nearly 40 years after retiring here, Lt. Col. Neal C. Brayton returned to Fort Lee to receive the Legion of Merit award for his actions during the Vietnam War. Brayton served as the School of Management Information Systems dean until his retirement in 1974.
In October 1968, Brayton was on assignment in Tay Ninh Province as a psychological operations adviser working with the principal Vietnamese information official. His objective was to impose the full responsibility for their work on the Vietnamese and withdraw the U.S. from operations. Under Brayton's guidance, the Vietnamese information officer improved his initiative and personal skills and gave the information programs a Vietnamese character.
Shortly thereafter, the senior adviser was injured and his deputy killed, leaving Brayton to take charge of the advisory team. He picked up the reins and continued with the mission. He continued with all of the team's normal operations, wrote the pacification and development plan and implemented the plan and its system of reporting its progress. Brayton continued his assignment, monitoring and directing the pacification program.
The award citation cites Brayton's broad and deep understanding of the means and objectives of pacification, his exceptionally meritorious conduct and his outstanding service.
When Brayton began to write his military memoirs he realized the Legion of Merit award was not among his awards although he had earned it. The colonel contacted Rep. Eric Cantor, the congressman from Virginia's 7th District who contacted the Department of the Army and in April, Brayton was issued the award and told to contact the nearest military installation for the award's presentation.
"The Army is sometimes slow in recognizing some of the deeds of past Soldiers," said Col. Rodney Edge, U.S. Army Garrison, Fort Lee commander. "We are here today to recognize Lt. Col. Brayton. We are going to present him with the Legion of Merit award for some spectacular achievements that happened in 1968 and 1969. What is important about that is, while he was working, several of his teammates were killed and he stepped up to the forefront and took charge. He led his unit to success. I am glad the Army finally got it right."
Brayton said receiving the award will help him finish his military history - completely.
"This ceremony will help me bring closure to that part of my life and my memoirs," he said.
Brayton spent 23 years in military service. He was a member of the Naval Reserves when he was drafted into the Army in 1951. Brayton served at Fort Benning, Ga.; Camp Casey, South Korea; Fort McClellan, Ala.; Fort Amador, Panama; Fort Bragg, N.C.; Okinawa, Japan; and finally Fort Lee.