Silver Star upgraded to Navy Cross 46 years later
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Ken Altazan (Source: WAFB)[/caption]Sgt. (Ret.) Ken Altazan was awarded the Silver Star for actions in the A Shau Valley, Vietnam on 9 May, 1969. Here we are 46 years later, and that Silver Star has been upgraded to a Navy Cross. A recap of the story from WAFB 9:The Silver Star is the third-highest honor the Pentagon can bestow on a Marine, just below the Navy Cross and the Medal of Honor. A mysterious letter and a secret recording of a medical evacuation mission in A Shau Valley, Vietnam almost 50 years ago has the Navy reconsidering a local veteran's medal.The recording, which was made by a fighter pilot circling high above the firefight outside the village of Me Hiep, tracks the radio conversations between medevac helicopters, fire support aircraft, and ground troops calling for evacuation from the area on May 9, 1969. Marines on the battlefield were severely outnumbered by the Viet Cong. The job of getting them out fell to helicopter pilot Major Pat Donovan and his crew chief Sgt. Ken Altazan in a mission that became 5-Mike."The Marines were mixed up with the enemy. They're all in the same area. We can't come in and the Hueys cannot provide air cover. What are we gonna do, and we decided to go we're going in," said Donovan.
"When we landed, we took no fire. It seemed like everything was gonna go," remembered Altazan, who was halfway through his second tour. It was his job as crew chief to help co-ordinate the rescue, which was no easy feat with a dozen injured Marines scattered across nearly three acres of rice paddys."The bad guys knew they were there, and they were being shot at," Altazan said. "Quite a few were hit coming to the aircraft."Many were injured so badly they could not stand, much less run to the helicopter. Donovan said this meant he would have to air-taxi his aircraft from one injured soldier to the next to get them on board. It was on his fifth "hop" that Donovan said he saw Altazan leap from the front of the aircraft."I saw this flash out of the corner of my eye," said Altazan. It turned out to be a wounded Marine waving a green tee-shirt. Altazan said he ran for the Marine's position and found not one but two injured soldiers."Ken picked those two Marines up," said Donovan. "One by the web belt in his left hand, and he had the other Marine over his shoulder. And he was struggling to get back."See the full story from WAFB9.com.WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports[mwi-cat-listing cat="94" ppp="4" cols="4" desc="false" type="view" btn_color="black" ]