NPR Story
3:21 pm
Fri March 28, 2014

Bureaucratic Snafu Delays Vietnam Vet's Medals For 44 Years

A Vietnam vet from north Idaho on Friday received nine military honors more than four decades overdue.

Leon Strigotte stood before a crowd in the Post Falls armory as his awards were officially read out.

The commander of the Idaho National Guard pinned the Bronze Star, the Army Commendation Medal, the Air Medal and others to Strigotte's jacket lapels.

He earned the medals 44 years ago, when he was leading a recon team in Vietnam. It had been overlooked for years as a result of poor record keeping and, possibly, a sunken ship.

“Actually it brings a lot of closure," he says. "And at the same time I hope it also opens it up for other veterans who have also been overlooked.”

Strigotte now teaches at a high school in Spokane. He’s spent several years trying to track down his military records. He was told his papers from 1969 may have been aboard a ship that sank on its way back to the U.S.

Last year the National Archives turned up a fading old report on Sgt. Strigotte's entire unit. It included a list of the medals the men had earned.

The nine new awards are in addition to three purple hearts Strigotte was awarded for injuries in Vietnam.

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