Articles

Vietnam vet to receive overdue medals thanks to late battle buddy's nephew

One veteran will receive the medals earned during Vietnam thanks to the nephew of his late battle buddy.

Three years ago, Curtis Sidwell of Watson, Illinois decided to research his uncle Donald Sidwell's experience in Vietnam.  Donald passed in 2009, and never shared his experiences behind enemy lines with his family.

While searching through his uncle's effects, Curtis found that Donald had written two letters to the wife of a man named Phillip Taylor. In the first letter, Sidwell had written the worst news any friend might have to deliver to a loved one. Donald's letter said that Taylor had been killed in a helicopter crash. The second letter corrected the first. It wasn't true; her husband was not dead. Sidwell had been misinformed. Taylor was in fact, alive.

Stars and Stripes described the situation in an article titled, "A Whisker":

"Severely injured during a firefight south of Pineapple Forest on Oct. 18, 1968, Taylor waited for an medevac chopper to transport him to a hospital in Chu Lai. When a chopper came, it took fire as it hovered over a row of trees, went into a tailspin, and then crashed. Taylor was thrown from the chopper, and was the only survivor of that accident."

Curtis Sidwell was able to track down Taylor, and during a phone conversation Taylor recounted his 'lone survivor' incident.  He also said that one of his superiors had promised he would receive a citation for how he'd conducted himself. Sadly, decades had gone by and no such thing happened.

"You could tell in his voice that he was bothered about that," Curtis said in an interview with The Edn. "Knowing the day that Philip had and what he went through for the United States of America and for us, it only seemed fair to get him his medals."

Sidwell embarked on a three-year effort to ensure Taylor got the recognition he was due, and his work paid off in the form of Taylor receiving a Purple Heart, an Army Commendation Medal, a National Defense Service Medal, a Vietnam Service Medal with four Bronze Star awards, a Combat Infantryman Badge, a Republic of Vietnam Campaign Ribbon, a Sharpshooter Badge, and a Marksman Badge. According to The Edn, a review is underway at Fort Knox for a Bronze Star related to Taylor's bravery.

"It's the least I can do," said Sidwell. "And I think my uncle would be tickled if he could know what I've done."

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