CORSICANA, Texas — After a 47-year wait, Gerald Clore finally received the Legion of Merit award, given for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services and achievements.
“Gen. Eisenhower had one, and so have several kings,” Clore said.
Indeed, not only is this prestigious medal given to members of the United States armed forces, but also to military and political figures of other countries, as well. It was first given in 1942.
This is not Clore’s first medal; he also has received three Purple Hearts, Marine Corps Good Conduct award, Vietnam Campaign medal, Vietnam Service medal, National Defense award, Presidential Unit Citation, and a Combat Action ribbon.
Military service is a tradition in Clore’s family, and he went willingly during the age of the military draft. He arrived in Vietnam for the first time on his 20th birthday as a United States Marine.
The three Purple Hearts were earned in two abbreviated tours; the first coming when shrapnel from hand grenades embedded in his right arm and the back of his left leg. Clore spent some weeks in a hospital in Chieu Lei, then returned to combat.
On March 23, 1967, a sniper with an AK-47 hit him in the thigh, shattering the bone. The second Purple Heart came with a trip to Pensacola, Fla. and three months in the hospital.
While there, on May 11, 1967, his entire platoon of 50-plus Marines were killed in action.
Clore returned to Vietnam in November 1969, but would only stay a couple of months. His third Purple Heart was earned when the truck Clore was in exploded, throwing him through the air. His buddy, a corporal named “Recon” had insisted Clore take the passenger seat in the truck, while Recon hopped on the running board. When Clore came to, he was dazed and had lost part of his arm. The passenger side of the truck was gone, and so were Recon and the running board.
For over 40 years, Clore has battled the demons from those experiences. In addition to wondering why he was spared and his buddies weren’t, he has flashbacks, nightmares and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, for which he has sought help in support groups.
His return to the states wasn’t as welcoming as for those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan now, so Clore is more sensitive to what military personnel and their families are feeling when they come home to U.S. soil. He began volunteering for the USO in July 2004, greeting returning soldiers and Marines with care packages, and visiting with their families.
“There is a lot of stress on families when a loved one returns,” Clore said in 2007. “Being a Vietnam veteran ... I know a lot of us returned home and never got the ‘welcome home’ we should have. I didn’t really think about it at the time, but looking back, a lot of us got the shaft.”
Clore went on to say the climate is much different now when military personnel return from Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom.
But receiving the Legion of Merit medal, albeit 47 years later, eases that hurt a bit.