After 39 Years, Soldiers Honored for Vietnam Rescue Mission

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SANTA CLARA, Calif. — On the day Ray R. Moreno came home from Vietnam, the day antiwar protestors called him a baby killer, he decided to pack away his Army uniform for good. Memories and nightmares still intruded, but he rarely discussed them. Battle buddies were forgotten.

Until, that is, he started attending reunions of his troop a few years ago. Suddenly, a door reopened. “They were there; they understand,” Mr. Moreno, 58, said. “If we want to cry, we do. If we don’t, we don’t.”

For many members of his unit, Alpha Troop of the 11th Armored Cavalry, the annual reunions for veterans of Vietnam and Cambodia have become a form of therapy: a chance to reconnect, salve wounds and share bonds forged in an unpopular war.

But this year’s reunion was special for another reason.

At a hotel ballroom in September here, Alpha Troop unveiled a Presidential Unit Citation, the highest military honor for a unit, it received this year from the Army for “extraordinary heroism” in rescuing more than 70 soldiers from a larger North Vietnamese force on March 26, 1970. In the coming weeks, the veterans hope, President Obama himself will formally bestow the citation at a White House ceremony.

For the veterans at this year’s reunion, most in their late 50s and early 60s, the citation was a powerful bit of validation for actions some had tried to forget. “The hurt, the memories, they’re never going to go away,” said Mr. Moreno, of Orosi, Calif. “But it does make it feel a little better that you are recognized for something you did.”...

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