Veteran gets Bronze Star after enduring long wait

ASHVILLE – It took more than 40 years but Samuel McConnell finally got his Bronze Star Medal.

McConnell, 63, Ashville, who served as a sergeant in the U.S. Army in South Vietnam from April 1970 to March 1971, received the medal Saturday night during the 16th Annual McConnell Family Prom at McConnell Lake Memorial Park near Ashville.

McConnell had received the Bronze Star Medal certificate but had never received the actual medal.

Several months ago, his nephew, Neil McConnell of Dysart, contacted the Department of Defense and worked with the office of U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, R-9th District, to obtain the medal for his uncle.

“I am glad I got to do it. This is the biggest honor I have ever had in my life,” Neil McConnell said.

The Bronze Star is the fourth highest award for bravery, heroism or meritorious service for a U.S. Army serviceman involved with ground combat operations.

Samuel McConnell was awarded the medal for his meritorious achievement while serving in ground operations against hostile forces in Vietnam.

Samuel McConnell had tears in his eyes and was speechless when he received the medal.

“It brings back a lot of old memories, some you try to forget. I was one of the lucky ones that came back,” he said after the brief ceremony.

In addition to the Bronze Star Medal he also was presented with replacements for all of his other medals and ribbons including: Army Commendation Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Republic of Vietnam Campaign Ribbon and the Sharpshooter Badge with Auto Rifle Bar with Rifle Bar, according to Shuster’s office.

Shuster said he was glad to help obtain the medals.

“It is my honor and privilege to be able to help Sgt. Samuel A. McConnell receive the medals that he deserves for his service during the Vietnam War. Countless numbers of soldiers returned home after the war and went back to their daily lives with no fanfare and did not receive the recognition they sorely deserved for their service to our country. Sgt. McConnell is one of those soldiers and I am very proud that I could help him and his family claim his medals,” Shuster said.

Samuel McConnell also received a citation from the State House of Representatives sponsored by state Rep. Gary Haluska, D-Patton.

Neil McConnell said that if there are other veterans out there who haven’t received their due medals they should contact their local congressman.

The event was dedicated to Samuel McConnell’s father, Bernard McConnell, who died in January at the age of 94.

Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.