Note from my journal: 7/7/17
Leaving Home Depot, I spotted a man about my age.
Pretty damn old I thought then amended the thought to include, just like me.
He was wearing a Vietnam Veteran's baseball cap, so I walked over and started the conversation in the usual way. "When were you there?"
Still seated behind the wheel of the gleaming silver, Ford, long bed, four-wheel drive, crew cab pickup, he raised his head and said, "66 and 67. I was with the 173rd Airborne Brigade. You?"
"Right behind you. 67 and 68. 1st Aviation Brigade."
As he opened the door of the massive pickup truck he tried to smile but it was too painful to manage, twisted and crippled the way he was.
I stood clear of the door, not offering to help, because we both knew I couldn't. Finally he was out of the vehicle, standing, less-than-solidly with the help of a polished silver walking stick.
Our eyes locked for a long moment, everything that needed to be said passed in silence. Then he nodded curtly, and I returned the gesture.
I stood a long time in the silence he had left behind, watching as he made his way slowly toward the store, noting that he had not mentioned the embroidered line of script on the bottom edge of his cap. It read, "SILVER STAR WINNER."
I broke my stare, letting the parking lot full of unaware people flood back into consciousness. I knew he hadn't mentioned it because we both understood what it meant. Our knowing was enough.
The Silver Star Medal is the United States' THIRD HIGHEST award exclusively for combat valor, and ranks fifth in the precedence of military awards behind the Medal of Honor, the Crosses (DSC/NC/AFC), the Defense Distinguished Service Medal (awarded by DOD), and the Distinguished Service Medals of the various branches of service. It is the highest award for combat valor that is NOT unique to any specific branch; it has been bestowed by the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Merchant Marines. It may be given by any one of the individual services to not only their own members, but to members of other branches of service, foreign allies, and even to civilians for "gallantry in action" in support of combat missions of the United States military.
Because the Silver Star is ONLY awarded for combat valor, the only devices worn on it are:
- Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters in lieu of additional Army/AF awards
- Silver Oak Leaf Clusters in lieu of a SIXTH Army/AF award
- Gold Star in lieu of additional Navy/USMC awards
- Silver Star in lieu of a SIXTH Navy/USMC award.