Former Marine Awarded Vietnam Medals 22 Years Late
CHICAGO (AP) _ While his friends’ fathers had medals to prove they had served in Vietnam, Marty Kehoe’s dad couldn’t produce the goods, even though he is a former Marine with a distinguished service record in Southeast Asia.
But on Wednesday he got the proof he needed. Marty’s father, Chicago police Patrolman Martin Kehoe, was given four ribbons and four medals for his service as a Marine fighting in Da Nang and Chu Lai in 1965 and 1966.
″I’m proud of my father,″ said Marty Kehoe, 14. ″Now I know he was really doing something in the war.″
With his wife and three children watching, the elder Kehoe, 44, was given the awards and a special plaque by Marine Lt. Gen. Charles Pitman at a brief ceremony at O’Hare International Airport, where Kehoe is assigned.
″It really felt good to finally get them, in front of the family with the kids being there,″ said Kehoe, a 17-year police veteran.
″A lot of us were over there, and not a lot of us were recognized for what went on.″
Col. Cary Kelly, commanding officer of the Marine Corps reserve group at Glenview Naval Air Station, said Kehoe should have been decorated by his unit soon after earning the honors. But he said awards are sometimes put off when servicemen are in the field or on assignments that make ceremonies impractical.
Kehoe said he mentioned the missing medals to Pitman last month after Marty Jr., who had been studying the Vietnam War in school this year, asked him why he didn’t have any medals to prove he had fought there.
″He was asking me about (Vietnam),″ Kehoe said. ″He’s got some friends whose dads were there and they had medals.″
Kehoe said he had brought up the long-delayed awards when he chatted with Pitman in early November while on assignment accompanying the general at the airport.
″It was just kind of like a fluke,″ Kehoe said. ″I ran into this guy, he was a general, and he went to Washington to look up my record. And he was nice enough to come back and give (the awards) to me.″
Pitman said that while he does not normally deal with such matters, he was touched by Kehoe’s story about his son.
″He had a good record,″ Pitman said. ″He was a good Marine - a fine guy who served his country well - and we’re proud to honor him. ... I know his son certainly appreciated it.″
Pitman, the Marines’ deputy chief of staff for aviation in Washington, said such delays were not unusual.
″We still get requests for verification of awards from World War II and the Korean War,″ he said.
Pitman said he gave Kehoe, who was a corporal when he left active duty, the Combat Action Ribbon, the Meritorious Unit Citation, the Good Conduct Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Presidential Unit Citation, the Vietnamese Campaign Medal, and a Vietnamese unit citation.