Four area veterans receive belated medals

May 06, 2002|BY SCOTT BUTKI

Spencer D. Nave Jr. of Williamsport was surprised Friday to receive several medals including the Bronze Star for his service in the Vietnam War. Nave's wife hopes the medals will help him come to terms with his war experience.

Nave, 58, was one of four veterans presented with medals Friday by U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md., at Bartlett's Hagerstown district office.

The medals may help Nave address thoughts and memories about the war, his wife, Kay Nave, said.

"It is something he has always had trouble finding closure for. I'm hoping this will provide the closure, or at least help," she said.


"I hope so," Nave said.

Nave was in the war for 1 1/2 years. A helicopter crew chief, he was shot down twice and crashed once but was never injured, he said.

Six members of his family served on active duty in the war. Two were injured and two - his brother-in-law and cousin - were killed.

The war is still hard to think about, because of the loss not only of his relatives but of all who died in the conflict, Nave said.

He also thinks Vietnam veterans never received the recognition they deserve.

Nave choked up talking about the war and the medals.

"I know it is difficult for him but I know in the long run it is going to help him," his wife said of the recognition Friday.

Nave has written poems and a song to honor those who served in the military and died in service. The creative work is cathartic, his wife said.

When the Naves moved to Williamsport two years ago, she found he had paperwork from after he got back from the war authorizing medals for him. He said he never sent the paperwork for processing because the medals did not mean anything special to him at the time.

Without his knowledge, Nave's wife contacted Bartlett's office and began the work to get him the medals.

Nave went with his wife to Bartlett's office Friday after she told him they were going to talk to the congressman about veterans' benefits.

The medals were a wonderful surprise, he said.

In addition to the Bronze Star, Bartlett gave Nave the Vietnam Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Soldier's Medal, Air Medal with an American Campaign Medal and other awards.

Darrell Wilhelm, 54, of Hagerstown was presented with a Purple Heart for wounds he received in 1968 during the Vietnam War. He previously received other medals, including the Bronze Star, but not the Purple Heart because some of the needed paperwork was lost or destroyed, he said.

After his mother died three years ago, Wilhelm discovered she had a newspaper clipping from 1968 that stated he was expected to receive the Purple Star. Wilhelm, with Bartlett's help, was able to use the clipping to demonstrate his eligibility for the medal.

Friday, about 34 years after he was injured in the war, he received the medal.

"This is a proud moment for me," Wilhelm said. "There is a joy in my heart."

Two months into his service in Vietnam, Wilhelm was taking a bath in a pond when it suddenly got quiet. He suspected an attack was imminent, he said. He began to run, and the next thing he remembers he was in a hospital with injuries above one eye and in one shoulder, he said.

He still has a metal plate in his head and suffers from headaches because of the injuries, he said.

Albert D. Kridler, 79, and John E. O'Flaherty, 80, both of Hagerstown, were honored for their participation in the 1944 Allied invasion on the beaches of Normandy.

They were given Jubilee of Liberty medals provided by the governor of the Normandy Region of France.

Kridler, who was part of an Army anti-aircraft unit, said he will never forget the smell of dead bodies during the invasion, or the sight of American corpses lined up "like a cord of wood waiting to be stacked."

O'Flaherty, formerly of England, served in the British Army for five years. As a member of the infantry, he was part of the first wave that landed at Normandy who swam part of the way to shore under fire.

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