FORT KNOX, Ky. -- With his wife Rita by his side, Vietnam War veteran Sgt. 1st Class James Hicks (retired) was officially presented the Air Medal on Feb. 22, by Brig. Gen. Robert Bennett, the Adjutant General of the U.S. Army and executive director of Military Postal Service Agency.

Hicks was awarded the medal, the equivalent of the Bronze Star, in November 1972 for his meritorious achievement in aerial flight as a crew chief with Command Aircraft Company during the Vietnam War while participating in sustained operational activities against the enemy from December 1971 to November 1972.

Hicks' commander at the time said of Hicks, his "professionalism and devotion to duty displayed while performing duties as a crew chief for the Command Aircraft Company set a standard worthy of being emulated by his contemporaries. Spec. 4 Hicks' determination to accomplish his mission in spite of the hazards inherent in repeated aerial flights over hostile territory and by his outstanding degree of professionalism and devotion to duty, he has brought credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army."

Hicks was unaware he'd received the medal until he retired in 2011 when he put in a request for his medical and personnel records. Upon discovering Hicks' story, Bennett decided to make a formal presentation.

"I'm fortunate to be able to present this award to you on your behalf that you received 46 years ago as crew chief and door gunner," Bennett said. "I just thank you so much for your service, and I know you're truly a Soldier for life."

"I love the military and being around Soldiers," Hicks said, "and I really appreciate this from the bottom of my heart."

On March 28, 2017, President Donald Trump signed the Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act of 2017, officially recognizing March 29 as National Vietnam War Veterans Day. President Barack Obama signed a similar proclamation March 29, 2012, which called "upon all Americans to observe this day with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities that commemorate the 50-year anniversary of the Vietnam War."