Staff Sgt. Timothy Shelton, 70, received the Purple Heart among six other awards in a ceremony presented by Sen. Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican.
It took almost 50 years because of a clerical error made after he was discharged from the U.S. Army in 1971. Shelton had been injured in Vietnam, but the clerk who processed his information found no evidence he had been wounded. Instead of pushing back, he decided to leave and not speak of it again, according to Stars and Stripes.
“I said the hell with it, and came home,” Shelton said. He never expected his military record would be changed.
According to Stars and Stripes, the series of events leading to the ceremony began when he needed help regarding a disability claim, so he reached out to Portman’s office for help.
They gave him a DVD of his military record, which showed he had been wounded.
It also gave Shelton the evidence needed to prove he was wounded in Vietnam, a necessary requirement for being awarded a purple heart.
Purpleheart.org defines the criteria for the award as “members of the armed forces of the U.S. who are wounded by an instrument of war in the hands of the enemy.”
In 1968, Shelton decided to enlist in the Army after a weak job market. Stars and Stripes reported he was wounded in May 1968 when a land mine exploded during a patrol in Chu Lai, injuring six of his platoon members and killing one.
The explosion launched shrapnel into his chest. He survived and was airlifted to safety, eventually returning to active duty before leaving in 1969. After Vietnam, he served as a drill sergeant for basic training at Fort Leonardwood in Missouri.
“He served his country in Vietnam,” Stars and Strips reported Portman saying at the ceremony. “He served honorably and he did his duty and for us he has earned the Purple Heart.”
Other awards he received at the ceremony included: the Vietnam Service Medal with three Bronze Service Stars, the Combat Infantryman Badge, Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Republic of Vietnam Campaign Ribbon and the Marksman Badge with Rifle Bar and Machine Gun Bar.
“I don’t think I need to be recognized,” he told Stars and Stripes before the ceremony. “This isn’t about me. The guys who need the credit didn’t come home.”
After the ceremony he realized how special the moment was to him.
“Appreciative for one thing,” Shelton told fox19. “Everything that was done here today was really an honor to me.”