Vietnam Hero Awarded DSC 33 Years Late

Distinguished Service Cross awarded to Vietnam War hero (Army Times – AP)

It̢۪s 33 years overdue, but Stephen E. Lawrence is finally receiving the official Army recognition he earned for exceptional heroism in the late stages of the Vietnam War. At a ceremony in the Pentagon̢۪s Hall of Heroes on Friday, the Army is presenting to Lawrence the Distinguished Service Cross, the second-highest military award for valor, for rescuing the crew of a downed helicopter while under heavy fire near the village of Tay Ninh on Oct. 5, 1971.

Lawrence was nominated for the award in May 1972, but by then he had returned to civilian life. He said in a telephone interview on Thursday that the Army never notified him, even though his official home of record — Virginia Beach, Va. — remained valid for many years afterward.

Now living in Clearwater, Fla., Lawrence, 56, sounds more annoyed than bitter about the long delay. “It would have been nice 33 years ago,” he said with a chuckle. “But it’s real nice today,” with the added benefit of having his family, including two children, present for the ceremony. “The real story is that this is not really about the medal. It’s about long-lost friends” who set out to correct what they saw as an injustice done to a fellow war veteran, he said.


Now that he’s out of uniform, Lawrence feels the award has lost just a little of its luster. “I have a Distinguished Service Cross and nowhere to wear it,” he said. “But that’s just the way life is.”

Situations like this pretty much exemplify the acronym SNAFU.

FILED UNDER: Military Affairs
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.