WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Oct. 30, 2009) -- An award more than 45 years in the making was finally received Oct. 28, as retired Brig. Gen. John W. Nicholson was awarded the Silver Star for actions in Vietnam.
On Dec. 27, 1963, then Maj. Nicholson was serving as an advisor to the Army of the Republic of Vietnam Civil Guard and Self-Defense Force. During an eight-hour battle, their force was reduced from 200 to 40, and Nicholson directed friendly fire and mortar fire to help evacuate 13 wounded Soldiers through enemy territory.
During a ceremony at Fort Myer's Conmy Hall, Nicholson received the Silver Star for those actions. An audience of more than 100 family members, friends and classmates from West Point attended.
Retired Lt. Gen. John Cushman, who lobbied for Nicholson to receive the award after researching his actions that December day pinned the gold medal on Nicholson. He spoke of finding out about the events of Dec. 27, 1963, and recommending Nicholson for the Silver Star, only to find out years later that it never went through.
When it was approved in July, Cushman felt Nicholson was finally receiving his due honor.
"In the 234 years of the proud history of the United States Army, countless acts of conspicuous heroism on the battlefield have gone unrewarded. While justice can never be achieved for them all, we can all be proud at this recognition of General Nicholson for his heroic actions of long ago," Cushman said. "It is a great pleasure to take part in this well-deserved and appropriate ceremony."
While the focus of the ceremony was on Nicholson's achievements in the past, he made sure to mention the work that Soldiers are doing in today's Army, work that he is proud of.
"We have an Army today that not only consists of these splendid Soldiers you see in front of you, but of Soldiers around the world doing our country's bidding, doing what their country asked them to do," Nicholson said. "Doing it better than we did, and doing it better than any Army in the world."
Nicholson served three total tours in Vietnam and went on to serve in the Army for 30 years. Nicholson was stationed in Germany, Korea, at the Pentagon and as commanding general of the U.S. Army Training Support Center at Fort Eustis, Va. He was officially awarded the Silver Star in July, by President Barack Obama and then Secretary of the Army Pete Geren.
The Silver Star is awarded to a person who, "while serving in any capacity with the U.S. Army, is cited for gallantry in action against an enemy of the United States while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force."
(Alex McVeigh writes for the Pentagram at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall)