On Dec. 3, 1968, Ozone Park‘s John D. Chichester and his army company were on a reconnaissance mission in Vietnam when they found themselves under heavy enemy fire.
Chichester set up a defensive position and started firing back with his company, but not before six of his fellow soldiers were injured.
Despite going above and beyond the call of duty to aid his men and though his acts were documented, Chichester would have to start a new fight after the war for over 40 years to get the rightful award he earned that day.
“It was very frustrating,” he said, at the American Legion Post in Ozone Park last Thursday, where he was finally received the award he earned.
After the war, Chichester was awarded the Bronze Star with a Valor Device (“V” Device) for his act of heroism during the Dec. 3, 1968, battle. But shortly thereafter, the military lost his records and consequently rescinded the “V” Device designation for his Bronze Star.
Chichester battled with the Department of the Army for over 40 years to obtain the Valor commendation but each request was denied.
After some work with Councilman Eric Ulrich’s office last December and with the help of supporting documentation, Chichester’s appeal was finally granted and the Army amended his discharge to reflect his entitlement to the “V” Device.
His heroism came about that fateful day in 1968 as he went to each of the six men who were injured, picked them up and brought them to a safer area for them to be rescued. But it did not stop there.
As he was dropping the men off in the safety area, the helicopter coming to pick them up came under fire and subsequently was not able to pick up the injured. So he then again brought each of the men to protection until they could be safely picked up and attended to.
“Tonight we pay tribute to John D. Chichester’s selfless sacrifice defending our nation during the Vietnam War,” Ulrich said. “This award recognizes his heroism and exemplary service to our country and it is only a small token of appreciation for all that he has done on our behalf.”