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Former Marine Receives Combat Awards Decades after Earning Them

MISHAWAKA -- More than 45 years after earning but never receiving several combat medals, a proud Vietnam War veteran finally had his moment in the sun Thursday at a joyful ceremony surrounded by family members and friends.

Steve Denman, of Osceola, served 11 months in Vietnam for the Marine Corps, where he reached the rank of lance corporal.

While serving in 1968 and 1969, he sustained a fragmentation wound from a rocket. Denman was notified that he would receive the Purple Heart for his service, but when he returned home, life went on and he never received the medal. Denman said it really never bothered him.

"I figured once I got home or something (I would receive it). It went away after that, but I didn't worry about it," he said as he smiled proudly after the ceremony at U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski's Mishawaka office.

In addition to the Purple Heart, Denman was awarded the Combat Action Ribbon, Vietnam Campaign Medal, Vietnam Service Medal and National Defense Service Medal.

Denman said when a representative of Walorski's office contacted him and told him about the medals, she said he was a hero. But Denman doesn't see it that way.

"The country asked me to do a job and I had that obligation at that time and I said, 'OK, let's go, we'll get 'er done,'" he said of his service.

Walorski said the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and local congressional staffs are happy help veterans like Denman receive the medals they've earned -- no many how many years have gone by.

"There are a lot of reasons how and why medals get missed," she said. "There were times when medals have been destroyed just being held at certain facilities. ... A lot of veterans' records were destroyed that even documented the kinds of medals they were supposed to be honored with."

"Of the requests that come in we can usually track down and be able to prove about 90 percent of them," she added.

Denman said his son, Shane, started looking into obtaining his medals, but when they couldn't find the help they needed through the VA, they turned to Walorski's office.

"I got ahold of Jackie's office and they just -- boom, boom, boom -- it was within a month that they had it taken care of," he said.

Denman said receiving the medals won't change him, but added that he would be happy to be more involved with helping other veterans.

"I think (it gives me) a little bit more appreciation for what the government can do and did do," he said.

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