REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- Team Redstone gathered to honor a local veteran with the third highest military award for valor, the Silver Star, for his actions in Vietnam.
Retired 1st Lt. Phillip B. Fikes, of Huntsville, was awarded the Silver Star after 45 years during a formal ceremony hosted by Gen. Dennis L. Via, commanding general of the U.S. Army Materiel Command, Oct. 17 at the Bob Jones Auditorium here.
"I am so very proud and deeply honored to finally complete the mission and carry out the orders to present the Silver Star," Via said during the ceremony.
Via noted that Vietnam Veterans did not always get the honor they deserved.
"Today's ceremony reminds us that our Vietnam Veterans were patriots who served with honor, and will forever be deserving of our respect," Via said.
Fikes, a native of Winfield, Alabama, entered the Army in 1967 and arrived in Vietnam in January of 1969. He was assigned to lead First Platoon, Company D, 3rd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment -- called the River Raiders. His mission was to secure the area in and around the Mekong Delta.
"I believe my purpose there was to help my fellow Soldiers get home safely," said Fikes. "To do what we were asked to do, and at the same time come home safely to our families. I knew the decisions I made impacted that outcome greatly."
Fikes said those decisions weighed heavily on him.
On May 23, 1969, Fikes and his men were called to do a reconnaissance mission and suddenly he and his unit came under intense fire from three directions. Fikes crossed 100 meters of fire-swept terrain to evacuate wounded Soldiers and led an assault on enemy positions. It was for these actions that Fikes was presented the Silver Star.
Three days later, Fikes was injured from a booby trap that took part of a thumb, busted his knee and caused permanent partial paralysis. It was during his convalescence in the hospital that he believes the citation for the Silver Star for his actions on May 23 was slipped unceremoniously into his records. When he was medically retired due to his injuries, the award was not annotated on his DD-214, and went unnoticed until a record review last year.
"While the Silver Star was presented to me, I can only accept it on behalf of the Soldiers who I had the honor and the privilege to serve with in Vietnam; so for them and for me, I say 'thank you and God bless America,'" Fikes said.