By Patrick Ochs
The Sun Herald
WASHINGTON — Last week, Vietnam veteran Sgt. Ken Duncan received the Purple Heart along with several other decorations more than 46 years after serving his country.
Duncan said life sort of took over after he left Vietnam and before he knew it, it was 2013 and he hadn't received several medals he was owed. Duncan went through the process of applying for the medals and during a ceremony last week was publicly recognized for his service.
Duncan's situation isn't common, but there are others just like him who years — or decades, in Duncan's case — later decide to apply for medals they're owed.
Reasons for starting the process vary from just wanting to be recognized for service — or next-of-kin wanting their relatives to be honored — to benefits such as receiving a bonus on a job application.
Harrison County Veterans Services Officer Julia Encalade said modesty can be one hurdle.
"Some feel like they don't deserve it. It's like, they didn't give it to me then, why am I going to go back all these years later?" she said. "What they don't realize is they are entitled to that medal. It is their medal and they should be asking for it.
"With them, they're always looking to their brother. Their brother is the one who deserves it over them. Even today that still goes on, 40-something years later. They still have that mindset that it's all about their brother instead of them."
Regardless of the reason, Encalade said any veteran who believes he or she earned a decoration while in service but never received it should follow through with the process.
"For me, if my dad was entitled to a Purple Heart, I would want my daddy to have his Purple Heart," she said. "If my dad was involved in something and he didn't seek and find out he was entitled to it, I sure would want my father's records to reflect the Purple Heart."
Veterans who would like to start the process can go about it several ways. For veterans who have their medical records, they can Google "DD Form 149," which is a request for correction of military records. That form, once completed, is sent directly to the branch of service, or the veteran can expedite the process by submitting the completed form and supporting statements through their Congressional Representative.
Another option is to search for "Standard Form 180," which is a request to access military records. Once completed, it's sent to the National Archives in St. Louis for verification before being passed along to the branch of service. Veterans can also visit archives.gov/veterans/military-service-records to do an online request.
The process also requires a DD 214 as well as verification of injuries, locations and other pertinent information.
Because of the heavy volume, the process from application to receipt of decorations can take more than 18 months.
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