It's an honor more than forty years in the making for a Harrison Township Vietnam veteran, as one well deserved Bronze Star almost didn't get to its rightful owner.
The war is now more than four decades old, but the emotions of Vietnam remain high. And for one veteran the ultimate recognition has come, but it didn’t come without a fight.
It was a moment that almost never was--a bronze star for Alan Smith all to honor his heroism in Vietnam. Obtaining the star had become a painstaking process spanning years after Smith’s family learned his military records were lost in a fire.
“And that’s really sad," said Smith's great niece Brittany Couts. "Because he’s done something very extraordinary, and for it to go unnoticed is not unheard of, but I didn’t want that to happen.”
"In my case, they couldn’t find it," said Smith. "The medal had been on my discharge for 46 years. They were caught between a rock and a hard place.”
"This is what happens with a big bureaucracy at times," said Senator Carl Levin. "And we’re happy to do everything we can to make it right.”
With the help of Senator Levin, the star finally made its way to the chest of its rightful soldier, who immediately thanked three fellow soldiers who served alongside him, but never got to come home.
“One day, maybe by the grace of God, I get the chance to see those guys again," said Smith. "And I’ll share this medal with them."
This was not only a shining moment for Smith. It was a moment for the men who will forever shine brighter than any star sitting above a soldier’s heart.