RABER — Vietnam veteran Robert Serocke finally received recognition from the U.S. military this summer for his actions in a war that happened 54 years ago.
At 20 years old, Serocke was just one of the many American men that signed up for service during the Vietnam War. In November of 1965, Serocke began his basic training at Fort Knox where he also took classes in the Fort Knox radio repair school. After finishing his training at Fort Benning in Georgia, Serocke was given the enlistment rank of Army Specialist Fifth Class and received his orders to go to Vietnam.
In November 1966, Serocke was officially a part of the American army and found himself in the city of Saigon, which is now called Ho Chi Minh City.
For months, Serocke and his fellow soldiers moved across Vietnam to give support to other troops who were in need of it. In this time, he lent support to the 22nd mechanized infantry division and the 196th late infantry brigade.
It was during these months that Serocke saw combat and earned his Combat
Infantryman Badge for actively engaging in ground combat.
After several months, Serocke and the infantry battalion were stationed in a small village near the major Air Force base of Chu Lai to replace a force of Marines who were leaving the area. It was here that he earned his medal for meritorious service.
"When I went over there I left with the attitude that I was going to make something of myself, I wasn't just going to sit and do nothing," said Serocke. "I was going to do something and that's when I took it upon myself to do a lot of these things I was later nominated for."
Serocke was able to put his training at the Fort Knox radio repair school to good use as he was one of a few soldiers who was proficient in electronic wiring and repair and radio use and repair.
Serocke was responsible for wiring the battalion tactical operation center for electricity and communications, as well as the basecamp power grid. He took care of all the lighting, computers and other electrical services throughout the barracks and the rest of camp.
Serocke also became the main operator of the basecamp radio and used the radio to assist other troops during search and destroy operations and other tactical operations.
"That fell on my shoulders because nobody else could do it," he said. "I knew the phonetic alphabet, I knew a lot of things about the radio and they wanted communication because communication is a very important part of combat."
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When Serocke had almost finished his full year in Vietnam, his Lieutenant Ronald Tagliadiedra told Serocke that when he got home he would be receiving several medals for his service.
Serock was nominated for the Army Commendation Medal for Meritorious Service for his work going above and beyond as a radio operator and electrical engineer that kept his basecamp running. He also was nominated for the Vietnam Service Medal with two bronze service stars for acting as an operator assisting troops during multiple combat missions.
After returning to the United States in November 1967, a full year after his deployment, Serocke served at Fort Riley Kansas where he finished his final year of service. After his service was over, Serocke received his Combat Infantryman Badge, but because of a clerical mistake, the paperwork for the other two medals he was supposed to receive never went through.
After finishing his service, Serocke moved to Holland, Michigan where he was a truck driver for five and a half years. Then he took a job at the company Lifesavers, based in Holland. It was here that Serocke married his wife, Linda. For 26 years, Serocke worked for the candy company before the company moved to Canada and Serocke retired.
He later moved to Raber, in Chippewa County.
After settling down he focused on his new life, but after retirement he thought back on the medals he never received.
"I knew I was eligible for it, I knew I should have got it," he said. "Why I didn't get it, I don't know."
It took years of searching, but in 2022 Serocke was finally able to get in contact again with his old lieutenant Tagliadiedra.
Tagliadiedra remembered Serocke and the medals he was supposed to receive. After the two caught up, Tagliadiedra was able to contact the Army and have them fix the mistake and put the paperwork through.
On June 15, the U.S. Army recognized that Serocke was meant to receive his two awards for recognition of his meritorious service and officially awarded him the medals. On June 30, Serocke received the awards in the mail, more than 50 years after he first earned them.
Contact Brendan Wiesner: BWiesner@Sooeveningnews.com
This article originally appeared on The Sault News: Vietnam veteran honored with medals more than 50 years later