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Decades later, Vietnam veteran awarded Purple Heart

U.S. Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett's office helped Gene Mayer of Hagerstown get nine medals he earned through military service

September 04, 2012|By ANDREW SCHOTZ | andrews@herald-mail.com
  • Hagerstown resident and U.S. Army Vietnam veteran Gene Mayer, left, was presented with his military medals Tuesday night by U.S. Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett, right, prior to Bartlett's town hall meeting at the Funkstown Volunteer Fire Co.
By Joe Crocetta, Staff Photographer

Holding the Purple Heart he received Tuesday, Gene Mayer said, “It took 46 years to get here.”

U.S. Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett’s office helped Mayer, 71, of Hagerstown, get nine medals he earned through military service.

Bartlett presented the medals to Mayer before holding a town hall meeting at the Funkstown fire hall.

During an interview after the meeting, Mayer said he served from 1959 to 1968 in Germany, Korea, Vietnam and Japan.

Lisa Wright, an aide to Bartlett, said by phone earlier Tuesday that Bartlett’s office is still trying to see if Mayer also will get a Bronze Star.

At the fire hall, Mayer shared an Aug. 7 letter from Dennis L. Moorehead, a U.S. Army captain in Blairsville, Ga. It was an eyewitness statement in support of a Bronze Star citation for valor for Mayer. It read:

“Sgt. Gene Mayer was a squad leader in Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division. Lima Platoon was the lead element in a battalion size operation in Tay Ninh Providence, Republic of South Vietnam on 23 June 1966. After discovering a large cache of rice and weapons, Lima Platoon scouted trails from the cache area and came upon a rear guard for a NVA (North Vietnamese Army) unit that was planning an ambush on the trailing Bravo company. When the rear guard was killed, a fire fight broke out with a much larger NVA unit.

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“Even though S/Sgt Mayer was wounded and heavily outnumbered, he rallied his squad and assaulted the NVA unit. Doing so, S/Sgt Mayer gained a defensive superior position and delivered devastating small arms fire on the NVA until the remainder of Lima Platoon could reinforce his position.

“S/Sgt Mayer’s action prevented numerous casualties to his unit and reflect positive on his courage, leadership and the U.S. Army.”

Asked about getting the medals after so many years, Mayer said, “Oh, it’s great. It really is. I just wish my brother was still alive to see it.”

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