KOKOMO, Indiana — Forty-three years ago, Kokomo's Allen "John" Meeks earned the prestigious Bronze Star Medal for his heroics in Vietnam.
Meeks never received his medal, certificate or citation for his award, though, and was unaware of the award for several years. After submitting the proper evidence and documentation, the Department of the U.S. Army has verified and awarded him the Bronze Star Medal, the Kokomo Tribune reported (http://bit.ly/1mnlXpZ ).
Col. Ross Waltemath, Howard County Veterans Service Officer, presented the long-awaited medal to Meeks Tuesday evening in front of a host of friends, family and fellow soldiers at IUK's Kresge Auditorium.
Meeks, a member of the Disabled American Veterans Chapter 28 Kokomo, served with the U.S. Army as a K-9 handler in Vietnam from May 1970 to January 1971.
Meeks distinguished himself with military operations against hostile forces in the Republic of Vietnam, Disabled American Veterans Chapter 28 Commander Jerry Fivecoate said in his opening remarks.
"I really appreciate this very much," Meeks said as he accepted his medal.
Meeks thanked his fellow DAV members, including Bob Ladd, DAV state adjutant, who was the former Howard County Veterans Service Officer, for their support and friendship.
Meeks also gave credit to his wife, kids, grandkids and other family members who were on hand for their continued support.
A humbled Meeks gave the most credit to his K-9, Artus, for sticking by him.
"I was no hero. I didn't do anything special or spectacular." he said.
"I just wanted to do my job. Like most of you have, you follow an order and do the best you could. We were 19- and 20-year-olds and we felt invincible. I was lucky to have my best friend in my life — my guard dog, Artus.
"We ate together, slept together and worked together," said Meeks.
"He was known as the meanest dog in the area."
Meeks joked about how other soldiers tried to avoid Artus.
"He didn't wake me up, it was one of the soldiers he bit who woke me up."
Meeks said he wouldn't be here today without the dog's courage under fire.
"When I saw the Bronze Star, the name engraved on it was the wrong name," he said tearing up.
"It should have been Artus' name. If he was here, I would give him all my medals. He's the reason I'm here today."
The DAV also honored several people at the ceremony who have supported the DAV this past year.
Those honored with a plaque included IUK Chancellor Sue Sciame-Giesecke, Ruby Tuesday's General Manager Matthew Kenison, WWKI's J.R. Dennis, IBN Saud Grotto and Downham's & Sons Shooting Supply.
Sciame-Giesecke was honored for her support and for providing two rooms for in the school for DAV members to hold their meetings. Kenison, Dennis and IBN Saud Grotto were awarded for their continued support in DAV fundraising efforts to purchase a new transport van.
"I can't tell you how much I like veterans," said Kenison.
Dennis raised more than $10,000 for the van and hosted a concert, which raised another $7,000.
Information from: Kokomo Tribune, http://www.ktonline.com