On September 20, 47 years after their heroic actions on the battlefield, American veterans of the Vietnam war received their medals for bravery.
On April 30, 1967, Marines serving with Company M, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Division, were ordered to secure Hill 881 South during the first Battle of Khe Sanh. As the group advanced, they found themselves in the midst of a North Vietnamese attack. By the end of the battle, 75 percent of the unit was either killed or wounded.
For Marines Joe Cordileone and Robert Moffatt, it was a day that forever changed their lives. Early in the fighting, Cordileone, injured by shrapnel in his face, carried his platoon leader. He would fight for another eight hours and drag other wounded Marines to safety. One of the fellow Marines that Cordileone pulled to safety was Robert Moffatt, then unconscious. After regaining consciousness, Moffatt took over a machine gun position from a fallen comrade. Because of the actions of both men that day, many of their fellow Marines lived.
Among those who perished that day were Cordileone and Moffatt’s commanders. Because of this, there was no one to recommend the Marines for awards that they had earned.
Forty-six years later, retired Major General John Admire was listening to a group of retired Marines talk about April 30, 1967, when he learned that none of the surviving heroes had received medals. He immediately started researching to verify the veterans’ stories so that they would be awarded the medals they had earned. General Admire stated, “I knew we had to remedy this because there was no doubt in my mind that what they did was absolutely courage beyond belief.”
Because of General Admire’s efforts, six veterans, including Cordileone and Moffatt, received the medals they had earned years ago.
During the ceremony, Cordileone stated, “The truth is I was just doing my job. I did nothing more than any other Marine would have done in the same situation, and I certainly know that I did no more than any other Marine or corpsman who climbed hill 881 with me that day.”
Cordileone was award the Silver Star Medal, the military’s third highest decoration for bravery. The Navy stated that Cordileone’s actions saved the lives of at least ten men.
Moffatt was awarded the Bronze Star Medal, the military’s fourth highest decoration for bravery. Moffatt said that he accepted his award in the memory of his fallen comrades. After the ceremony, Moffatt stated, “I can go to my grave with some peace of mind and say, well, somebody appreciated what I tried to do.”
Both men still struggle with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, a result of their wartime duties. Currently, Cordileone is the chief deputy city attorney for San Diego and Moffatt is a retired cost estimator.
During the ceremony, Marine Brigadier General James Bierman apologized to the men for the almost five-decade wait to receive their medals.
Of the 100 Marines who fought on April 30, 1967, 27 were killed, and 50 were wounded. All of these heroic men were acknowledged, honored and remembered during the ceremony.
Sources: The Huffington Post