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February 21, 2012

Vietnam vet awarded Silver Star after 45 years!

The memories are still vivid, former Staff Sgt. Paul Taylor said.

That was why after receiving the third-highest decoration in all U.S. military branches, he had his daughter, Laura, say his thanks.

Taylor, 68, received the Silver Star award Saturday at Fort Wainwright, 45 years after an act of heroism that saved a fellow soldier’s life and sent Taylor to a nine-month stay in the hospital. After earning the award Jan. 17, 1967, the paperwork got lost in the shuffle, and Taylor never received recognition. Taylor joined the U.S. Army in 1964, during a period of heightening U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War.

He voluntarily joined because, he said, he didn’t want a run-of-the-mill job, like cooking or driving.

“If I was going to go into the Army, I wanted to do something exciting,” he said.

What Taylor really wanted to do was become part of a special forces unit. He remembers the window of opportunity to join a special forces unit was closing, when he decided to call one legendary Mrs. Billye Alexander — an employee of the Pentagon’s personnel office, who wrote the transfer orders for special forces soldiers.

He asked if he could be sent to Vietnam with a unit.

On Jan. 17, 1966, Taylor’s platoon was on patrol when it came under heavy gun fire. Taylor and another soldier led a charge toward the enemy’s machine gun, but were wounded. They were trapped in a rice paddy. The platoon’s senior medic, Taylor dragged his fellow soldier to safety and continued the attack on the enemy. He ensured the safety of the soldier and his platoon before being transported to a hospital with three gun shot wounds for a nine-month stay. He medically retired that year.
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