By Jessica Tuggle
TREASURE COAST -- Veterans travel from around the state and nation to visit the National Navy UDT-Seal Museum in Fort Pierce, but not many of them can say they witnessed a medal ceremony for a veteran there.
Last week, museum administrators worked with Congressman Bill Posey and his office staff to organize a special ceremony to honor a Vietnam veteran who was being awarded his Bronze Star Medal 43 years after being initially recommended for it.
Rick Keiser, executive director of the museum, said he was glad to provide such a fitting place to honor a veteran.
Jack Proctor of Cocoa, retired U.S. Army veteran who fought in Vietnam from 1971-72, accepted his medal from Congressman Posey on July 1in front of veterans from the Vietnam Veterans of America and other special guests.
One of the best parts about his job in Congress is having the opportunity to help people like Mr. Proctor get the honor due to them, Congressman Posey said.
After he finished his service, Mr. Proctor was recommended for the Bronze Star Medal for exceptionally meritorious conduct but like many other veterans before him, the medals were never presented to him.
Victor G. Diaz, veteran service representative for the Vietnam Veterans of America, said people that are awarded the Bronze Star have reached a high standard of heroism.
"It's for an act of bravery where someone shuts their brain off and puts their heart in gear and as a result, lives are saved," Mr. Diaz said.
At the suggestion of a friend, Mr. Proctor took his medal story to the congressman's office and the staff helped them work through the issue until all the papers were signed and the medal finally made ready.
One of the hurdles they faced was finding living commanding officers that could verify Mr. Proctor's account of the events that led to the recommendation.
"Congressman Posey didn't give up on me. Thank you very much," Mr. Proctor said.
During a Vietnam battle where two soldiers were seriously wounded, Mr. Proctor, as section leader, took creative action to secure medical care was given to the wounded men, Congressman Posey said.
When he heard a requested Medevac team could not fly in meet them, Mr. Proctor helped administer aid to the men and requested assistance from another helicopter team nearby. The helicopter team terminated their own mission to take the wounded men to a nearby hospital for treatment.
Though one of the men was pronounced dead at the hospital, it was clear that Mr. Proctor did everything within his power to protect his men, Congressman Posey said.
At the end of the ceremony, all of the veterans in the crowd gave Mr. Proctor a solemn and dignified hand salute.
Marty Zickert, president of the Veterans Council of Indian River County and the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 1038, said he was very proud to be a part of the special occasion.
"Whenever we can honor a veteran, especially a Vietnam veteran, it's a good day," Mr. Zickert said.
To contact Congressman Posey's Indian River County office, call (772) 778-3534.
For more information about the National Navy UDT-Seal Museum, call (772) 595-5845 or visit www.navysealmuseum.com.