On Nov. 19, 1999, a fairly non-desrcript brown mailer arrived at the Kansas City, Kan., home of Danny Taylor.
Inside was anything but ordinary, however – it was his Purple Heart, awarded for his service 30 years earlier during the Vietnam War and wounds from mortar fire to his arms, legs and back sustained during the Tet Offensive.
That ceremony wouldn't take place until Friday, 45 years after the battle that earned Taylor the Purple Heart in the first place.
“I've had my medal, I just haven't had it pinned on me,” he said.
In between have been years of wondering if such an occasion would ever happen. Danny's wife, Brenda, said it did Friday at the Eisenhower Veterans Affairs Medical Center only after she “raised hell” for a number of years. Danny is now battling cancer, which Brenda said ramped up her efforts.
“This is very important to me, because my husband has been given six months to live,” she said.
Danny's psychologist at the Eisenhower Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Dr. Mary Oehlert, helped get the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 56 in Leavenworth involved, setting up a general officer from Fort Leavenworth, Brig. Gen. Mike Lundy, deputy commanding general of the Combined Arms Center – Training, to perform the pinning of the medal.
He said the significance of the act was not to be underestimated.
“He did not receive a full ceremony. That's a tradition in our Army that we always uphold,” Lundy said.
That's especially true because of the timing of Danny's service, during the Vietnam War.
“He came into the Army, volunteered for the Army, back at a time when volunteering for the Army wasn't necessarily in vogue,” he said. “That's kind of the first indicator of the character of Mr. Taylor.”
Danny was serving as a specialist in the 86th Maintenance Battalion when his unit was attacked and he sustained the injuries that earned him the Purple Heart. It would be five days, Lundy said, before he would make it to Tokyo for treatment. By April 1968, he would be honorably discharged from the Army.
In the 1970s, Danny served in the Kansas National Guard. He and Brenda now have seven children and 19 grandchildren.
Danny said he is proud of have been able to serve, proud to say that he volunteered for military service and for Vietnam. Presented with his Purple Heart in addition to gifts from the VFW and Fort Leavenworth Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Jeffrey Crawford, Danny was at a loss for words.
“I don't know what else to say but thank you,” he said.
After the ceremony, he said the award did feel different this time around.
Page 2 of 2 - “It's been fulfilled,” he said, “it's been pinned on me.”
Lundy called that last step in the process of honoring a fellow soldier “the right thing to do,” especially considering what service members like Danny and the other veterans in the audience have done for his generation.
"As we engage with the public out there, the recognition that we receive and the thanks that we receive are because of the hard work that you guys and gals are able to put in to honor our current service,” he said. “As soldiers today, what we look back to are those who served before us and that is the strength that we receive from all of our veterans and the strength that we receive today.”