Seligman man awarded 9 overdue war medals
Walden: ‘It is always nice to get recognition’
These days, 90-year-old Seligman resident Wayne Walden enjoys his recliner time and attending senior dances across southwest Missouri and Arkansas, but on Thursday, Walden was recognized for his past accomplishments in the U.S. Army — recognitions that were long overdue.
A veteran of World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War, Walden was adorned with nine U.S. Army medals he should have received years and years ago.
“[After I retired], I thought, ‘Well, maybe I will get them and maybe I won’t,’” Walden said. “All these medals are on my record in St. Louis and verified, not just on my word alone.”
Debra Davis, Walden’s daughter, said the idea to get her father’s recognitions came about as his 90th birthday approached.
“We were planning his 90th, and he actually mentioned not getting the medals,” she said. “I had no clue about it, and he asked me to check on them. I called U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill’s office, and they were wonderful in telling us exactly what we needed. We got all the forms sent, and we had hoped we’d get them by his birthday, but that three-week time frame was just too soon.”
Davis ended up having a personal connection in McCaskill’s office, as her former student in Springfield, Rylea Luckfield, is the constituent services representative in McCaskill’s Springfield office.
“They were very accommodating in making sure everything was done the way dad wanted it to be done,” Davis said. “This ceremony [at the courthouse] was all his choice.”
David Stokely, southwest Missouri district director for McCaskill’s office, said when deployments ended, thousands of servicemen got off the boats, and piled up bureaucracy is how Walden’s medals were overlooked.
“Wayne’s daughter contacted us, and once we made the inquiry with the Army, it was pretty simple,” he said. “We waited for a while hoping Sen. McCaskill could come down, but it just couldn’t work out.”
At the ceremony, overseen by Luckfield, Brig. Gen. David Boyle was on hand to officially pin the medals on Walden.
“How a man served in WWII, the Korean War and the Vietnam War and
not get his medals show how humble the people of the state of Missouri really are,” he said. “Wayne had a full career in the Army and was in three wars, but he never asked, what about me?”
Walden, upon receiving his medals and a standing ovation from the more than 60 family and friend in attendance, had one message — enjoy your freedom.
“That’s what the U.S. Army represents, and there are a lot of people from other countries that join and serve to accelerate their citizenship,” he said. “America is the greatest country in the world.”
Davis said that attitude was one of the best lessons she learned from her father growing up.
“Dad was in the Army for 21 years, so we traveled around with him and he went to Korea and Vietnam when we were young, but he didn’t talk about it much,” she said. “But, he always taught us to respect others and love our country. That’s one thing I’m really thankful for is how he taught us to respect all different kinds of people, no matter their color or where they are from. We are all human beings and deserve respect.”
When asked how proud of her father she is, Davis smiled and began to choke up.
“Where do you find the words?” she said. “I just can’t. I get all teary-eyed, and I just look at him and see his medals and I know what he means to people. He’s left a wonderful legacy with his family, and words can’t explain how proud I am.”
Walden said of his new accolades, his two favorites are his four bronze stars on his Vietnam medal, and his one bronze star on his National Defense medal.
“I didn’t worry too much about getting them because you don’t get extra money for these, but as a personal thing, it is always nice to get recognition for something you did,” he said.
Walden said some of his toughest and most memorable missions were extractions during the Vietnam War.
“At times, people would get into trouble, and we had to get them out,” he said. “We’d fly in with the helicopter and couldn’t even sit it down. You just had to jump on and hold on. I’m proud to have saved some lives and gotten people out of sure-death situations.”
Walden said he also remembered the Nuremberg Trials after WWII and wishing so many on trial had not committed suicide, but received justice.
These days, Walden said he enjoys his recliner, and going to dances in Seligman, up to Springfield and Nixa and south into Arkansas. He said the Waltz, two-step and ballroom dances are his favorites.
“And, you get to hug a woman,” he said.
While Walden is proud of his record, his service and his family, he did say his emotions as a veteran still run high at times.
“I enjoy the appreciation, but sometimes, I don’t sleep much,” he said. “I wish I could wash my insides out, because I can’t control my dreams and after the wars, I came back a different person. I don’t fear death and never have. Sometimes, you have to look it right in the eye.”
Medals awarded to Walden on Friday include:
• 016 Army Commendation Medal
• 020 Good Conduct Medal & Clasp Bronze 5 Loops (Good Conduct No. 5)
• 030 European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal
• 031 World War II Victory Medal
• 032 Army of Occupation Medal & Germany Clasp & Japan Clasp
• 034 National Defense Service Medal & Bronze Star Attachment (Single)
• 038 Vietnam Service Medal & Bronze Star Attachment (Triple)
• 065 Republic of Vietnam Campaign Ribbon with Device (1960)
• 070 Expert Badge & Carbine Bar