James C. Melton, a native of Manchester, Ga., volunteered to join the armed forces after college as an Army Engineer Officer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He served in Vietnam from September 1969 through June 1970.
In 1969 he was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for meritorious achievement in ground operations against hostile forces in the Republic of Vietnam. But, he was never formally presented his medal until July 18 at the USACE ceremony that was originally scheduled to promote his son to the rank of Air Force major.
"It was given to him on his way out of Vietnam. Kind of like a, 'Here you go, take this and throw it in your backpack,' type of thing," said Maj. James "J.D." Melton.
J.D. is Melton's son and followed in his father's military footsteps. He joined the U.S. Air Force and currently works as the USACE staff weather officer. J.D. was promoted from captain to major during the July 18 ceremony.
J.D. decided to share the moment with his father who inspired him to join the military. He wanted to honor his father by having the Bronze Star Medal formally presented during the promotion ceremony.
"He was never formally presented the award the way it should have been. So, I decided to put this together," said J.D. "He had such a big influence on me. I joined the Air Force and now I'm working for the Corps of Engineers. It's full circle for the whole family."
J.D.'s family at the ceremony, in addition to his father, included his wife, daughter, mother, sister, brother-in-law and nephew. Maj. Gen. Michael C. Wehr, USACE deputy commanding general, hosted the promotion ceremony.
Following the promotion, Wehr shared a few words about the poor treatment of troops after they returned from Vietnam up until recently.
"I think now we are finally starting to right those wrongs," said Wehr.
Wehr then formally presented Melton with the Bronze Star. Melton stood tearfully as his wife and J.D. joined him at the front while his medal was pinned onto his shirt.
"This was a big surprise, awesome, unbelievable, and a great honor," said Melton a resident of Arden, N.C.
Following the ceremony guests were able to speak with the family and view a table set up with several of Melton's personal items from his time in Vietnam including a journal he kept, his helmet and pictures.
"After all these years it's like your time in Vietnam is finally worth it and you finally get recognition," said Melton. "Before this it seemed like my time in Vietnam was worthless."