Vietnam Veterans to Receive Purple Heart after Marine Corps Reversal

Vietnam Veterans to Receive Purple Heart after Marine Corps Reversal

March 18, 2015

Vietnam Veterans to Receive Purple Heart after Marine Corps Reversal

A U.S. Marine and Vietnam War veteran who was the only survivor of his crew, whose helicopter was shot down by friendly fire, is finally seeing another battle come to an end. His battle, to ensure his crewmates were honored for their sacrifice, paid off with all four crewmembers (himself included) being awarded the Purple Heart.

Dan Jones, a Marine first lieutenant, is the only surviving member of a helicopter crew of four who were accidentally shot down by an American howitzer while delivering supplies to U.S. troops. After this friendly fire accident took the lives of 3 of his crew members (First Lt. Glenn Zamorski; Sgt. Raymond Templeton; Cpl. Conrad Lerman), Jones was told that they would would not be awarded Purple Heart medals. He was also instructed to not inquire further into the matter.

The Vietnam veteran would not, however, be silenced. He asked the Marine Corps twice to change their decision. He even enlisted the help of Sen. Barry Goldwater. In both occasions, his request was denied as military officials told him that victims of so-called “friendly fire” were excluded from receiving the Purple Heart.

Then, in 1993, a new door of opportunity opened. During that year, there was a change to the law which now granted eligibility to those who had been wounded by American ordnance intended to cause an enemy harm.

Unfortunately, Jones still did not learn of this change in the law for Purple Heart recognition until 10 years later. And it seems he was not alone as the change was neither publicized nor did the Pentagon do much in the way of finding those veterans who were affected by the law.

The Vietnam War veteran did catch wind of the change in 2013. At that time, Jones began reassembling records to seek recognition for his crew. After much doubt that he would ever see victory with his fight, the 70 year-old veteran finally received the news he was hoping to hear - the Purple Hearts were approved for the entire crew.

What was his reaction? At one of the Purple Heart ceremonies, Jones told reporters, “My reaction to that call was pretty much the same as it is now,” he said. “I cried. They were my buddies. I felt their deaths needed to be honored, and as the surviving crew member it was my responsibility to make sure that occurred.”

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