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4 Vietnam vets to get Silver Stars

By The Mercury

FORT RILEY — A process that took nearly three and a half years will come to a close Friday when four Vietnam War veterans of the 1st Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, are presented with Silver Stars.

The ceremony is set for 10 a.m. at Building 7108 on Fort Riley’s Custer Hill.

One Bronze Star for Valor will also be awarded to a Vietnam veteran of the 16th Infantry, along with a Purple Heart to a wounded veteran from the regiment’s recent deployment to Afghanistan.

The Silver Star is the third-highest combat award for valor in the U.S. Army, behind only the Medal of Honor and the Distinguished Service Cross. The awards stem from a battle that took place Aug. 12, 1969 in Quan Loi, South Vietnam.

Authorities said that during the battle, Lt. Col. Ken Cassels led Alpha and Bandido Charlie companies of the 16th Infantry Regiment, plus Delta company, 5/7th Cavalry from the 1st Air Cavalry Division to the rubber plantation West of Quan Loi.

A multi-battalion size force from the 272nd Regiment, 9th North Vietnam army division, dug in with anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons, was waiting.  The ensuing 11-hour battle was carried out without any supporting air, artillery, or gunship assets.  At the end of the day the North Vietnamese were driven back to their Cambodian safe haven.

Authorities said many heroic actions from that day have gone unrecognized. The members of Bandido Charlie Company founded an association that has supported former members of the unit and, through continual gathering of enough eye-witness testimony, began an effort to see that these long overdue awards for heroism could be approved for six Bandidos.

The Silver Star award winners are Alfredo G. Herrera, Douglas J. Ludlow, Ronald W. Mackedanz and Melvin McElreath. The Bronze Star for Valor for Valorous Achievement will be awarded to Stephan Biernacki

Roger Haynie will also be awarded a Bronze Star for Valor by the Governor of Arkansas at a subsequent ceremony.

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