Vet who got medal late, through mail, may get ceremony
Stars and Stripes August 18, 2009
BAMBERG, Germany — A Vietnam veteran who waited 40 years to get his Bronze Star — only to receive it in the mail — might soon get his day in the sun.
Late last month, Alfred Pankey, a retired Army staff sergeant, received his Bronze Star Medal with “V” device in a nondescript yellow envelope sent to his Bamberg post office box.
U.S. Army Europe leaders decided to look into the delayed medal after a story about him appeared in Stars and Stripes.
Bruce Anderson, a spokesman for U.S. Army Europe, said the command is looking into the possibility of presenting Pankey his medal in “ the appropriate forum.” He did not provide any further details.
When he picked up his medal on July 20, Pankey didn’t seem bothered by receiving it in the mail. “That’s OK, they don’t have to come pin it on me,” he said.
But others were nonplussed.
“To think he had to pursue the award himself for over two decades ... and the thanks he gets is an award he earned delivered via bubble wrapped manila envelope,” Gina Twyman, a military spouse, said in an e-mail to Stripes after the original story was published. “Staff Sgt. Pankey was treated extraordinarily poorly by the U.S. Army Tank-automotive and Armaments Command. How can they justify not having prepared and performed a formal ceremony?”
Pankey earned the medal for his actions when his unit, the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, was overrun by insurgents on June 19, 1967, at Blackhorse Base Camp, near the Cambodian border. Nine men were killed in the battle.
Officials at TACOM say they are only responsible for shipping the medals once the National Personnel Records Center verifies the award is legitimate. No designated organization is responsible for awarding an individual medal, according to Don Jarosz, deputy public affairs officer for U.S. Army TACOM Life Cycle Management Command.
If someone submits a request for a replacement set of medals and does not work through a veteran’s organization or congressional office, only that person knows he or she is receiving the medal, Jarosz said.
TACOM ships about 4,500 medals a month, officials said.
Now that the Army has expressed interest in presenting him with the medal, Pankey says he has a time and place in mind: USAREUR’s annual retirement ceremony in Heidelberg.
“Everyone comes to that,” said Pankey.