196th Infantry Brigade Honors Vietnam Veterans

Jul 2, 2018

The 196th Light Infantry Brigade stood in formation at Fort Shafter's Palm Circle to present awards to the10 veterans who served with the 196th in Vietnam
Credit Wayne Yoshioka

During the Vietnam War, thousands of soldiers returning home received their combat awards in the mail. That practice has been discontinued and was corrected for 10 soldiers last week.

Allen Hoe is seated next to Orlando Vazqez Agosto of Puerto Rico, who was presented with the Silver Star and Bronze Star. Ten Vietnam veterans were presented their awards and decorations earned during the Vietnam War, a ceremony many soldiers missed because of being deployed as individual replacements.
Credit Wayne Yoshioka

A cannon salute honored the 10 soldiers who served with the 196th Light Infantry Brigade in Vietnam.  The soldiers deployed for one year of combat duty as individual replacements, their awards and decorations mailed to them after they returned home.   Allen Hoe, from Hawai’i, was a combat medic with Bravo Company’s Reconnaissance Platoon during the 1968 Tet Offensive, one of the bloodiest campaigns of the Vietnam War.

 

“For me, it’s just so personally gratifying to have the combat brigade that I served with in war, stationed here in Hawai’i, recognizing its soldiers.”

 

Col. Robert Berg (right), commander of the 196th Infantry Brigade, pinned the Silver Star and Bronze Star on former Sergeant Orlando Vazqez Agosto who fought with the 196th in Vietnam.
Credit Wayne Yoshioka

Hoe received the Bronze Star, Vietnam Service Medal and Combat Medic Badge.   Orlando Vazqez Agosto, from Puerto Rico, was a Sergeant in the Recon Platoon along with Hoe.  Agosto was awarded the Silver Star, the 3rd highest award for valor.

 “That was May 12th, ’68.   Mother’s Day.  When we got hit, I took the M-60 machine gun and we went on top of the bunker and we surprised barrage of fire to the enemy.  And, after that, I get hit with a grenade or maybe mortar.  I don’t know.”

 

Sherry Jones (right) received a 196th flag and plaque inscribed with her brothers name, Sergeant Danny Widner.
Credit Wayne Yoshioka

Vasqez Agosto recuperated at a field hospital and was later sent back to the 196th.  Sherry Jones traveled from Texas to attend the ceremony in honor of her brother, Sergeant Danny Widner.  He was also with the Recon Platoon during Tet.

 

“On May 12, 1968, Mother’s Day, he went missing in action and he’s been missing in action ever since.  We haven’t had any military services but we do have a plaque for him next to mom and dad at the cemetery at Graham, Texas.”

 

James Boersma (right) saluted Col. Berg after receiving his awards and Combat Infantryman Badge. Boersman retired as a Colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve.
Credit Wayne Yoshioka

James Boersma was drafted following graduation from Michigan State University with a degree in journalism.  He was with B-Company one year after the 1968 Tet Offensive.   

“I was the RTO the radio man.  I was a private first class.  The weather was very, very hot and rainy.  I was in the jungle probably, like, ninety percent of the time and it just wasn’t fun being a combat infantryman in the jungle for months after months.”

 

Former Sergeant Larry Johnson also received a Bronze Star, Purple Heart and Combat Infantryman Badge
Credit Wayne Yoshioka

Boersma received the Army Commendation Medal and Combat Infantryman Badge.   Larry Johnson was a Sergeant with F-Troop 17th Cavalry of the 196th.  He received the Bronze Star, Purple Heart and Combat Infantryman Badge.

 

“I do remember when I was wounded, that we went over as individuals and we came back as brothers.  There were some good times and bad times and also some sad times.  But, war is hell.  That’s the only way you can put that.”

 

One Silver Star, 8 Bronze Stars and 5 Purple Hearts were among the medals awarded the 10 Vietnam veterans.
Credit Wayne Yoshioka

Combat Medic Hoe now serves as the Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army for Hawai’i.  He says the Army leaves no one behind.

 

“We always try to do the right thing and there’s no wrong time to do the right thing.  Hopefully, this event may inspire other veterans who are, maybe, stationed or near their combat brigades to do the same thing.”

 

For HPR News, I’m Wayne Yoshioka.