Archive for Monday, February 5, 2001

Topekan earns Silver Star

Vietnam vet belatedly recognized for wartime bravery

February 5, 2001

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— A Topeka man has received the Silver Star for heroism, 33 years after risking his life to save a fellow Marine during the Vietnam War.

Jim Lockhart, a postal worker, received the military's third-highest honor Saturday before an audience of family, friends, Vietnam-era veterans and U.S. Marines.

Retired Brig. Gen. William Weise pinned the Silver Star onto Lockhart's lapel during a ceremony at the Marine Corps Reserve Center.

Lockhart, 52, is supervisor of material control operations for the U.S. Postal Service.

In March 1968, Lockhart was a private first class who drove an amphibious tractor during an assault on a fortified village.

Several Marines, including Lockhart, were wounded, and one of them remained on the tractor's ramp after it was lowered.

Despite his wound, Lockhart crawled forward to drag the wounded man into the vehicle, and was wounded again.

At a Marine reunion four years ago in Albany, Ga., men from Lockhart's platoon remembered his bravery and thought he should be recognized. Tom Williams, who missed meeting Lockhart by about a week, took statements from those in the platoon who served with Lockhart. Williams sent a narrative of the incident to Weise.

"He represents a lot of others that served in Vietnam," said Lee Barta, of Kalispell, Mont., Lockhart's former platoon sergeant. "What he did was above and beyond the norm."

Former Navy corpsman Ken Smith, of Topeka, who treated many casualties during the war, said the ceremony meant a great deal to him.

"He performed in a typical Marine Corps manner," Smith said. "He did not want to leave anybody behind."

Family members expressed sentiments of pride and gratitude for Lockhart and others.

"That's the kind of person he is," said Jason Lockhart, 23, Lockhart's eldest son. "He was a hero to me long before they pinned a medal on his chest."

A representative of Gov. Bill Graves presented Lockhart with a Kansas flag that was flown over the state Capitol in his honor, accompanied by a proclamation signed by Graves.

An American Indian ceremony and drum music to honor the occasion were offered by the Standing Bear Inter-Tribal Brotherhood of Topeka.

Lockhart also received a proclamation from Topeka Mayor Joan Wagnon on Friday.

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