A Marine Gets His Medals

In Scranton, a Memorial Day lesson from the Vietnam War.

 
 

Members of the Old Guard arrive with packs full of US flags to place on graves at Arlington National Cemetery ahead of Memorial Day in Arlington, Virginia, May 24.
Members of the Old Guard arrive with packs full of US flags to place on graves at Arlington National Cemetery ahead of Memorial Day in Arlington, Virginia, May 24. PHOTO: MANDEL NGAN/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES
 

‘A nice town, with good people” is how Lance Corporal Jimmy Reddington described his Pennsylvania hometown of Scranton to a fellow Marine who shared a foxhole in Vietnam, according to a story in the local Times-Tribune. Within three months of deploying to Vietnam, Reddington was killed in action. Fifty-one years later, in time for Memorial Day, this Marine will finally get the 12 medals he earned there, including two Purple Hearts.

The Marine with Reddington was Joe Silvestri, who was wounded but survived the same battle that took his friend’s life. Since discovering Reddington’s grave in 1994 in Scranton’s Cathedral Cemetery, Mr. Silvestri has been coming back, along with other Marines, to tend the grave and pay respects to their brother-in-arms.

The medals make this year’s commemoration a little more special. Because Reddington’s father died when he was young and his mother and sister have since died too, the medals will be presented to the local Marine Corps League. They will be presented by retired Lieutenant General Ron Christmas, a Marine legend for his actions in Hue, one of the bloodiest battles of the Vietnam War. Marines from Reddington’s Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines will also be on hand—some old now, some in wheelchairs, but all determined to see that one of their own gets his due.

There are Jimmy Reddingtons all around us. They wear different uniforms—Marines, Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard—but they have in common a way of life that elevates service to country. Amid the cookouts, parades and flags that mark the last weekend in May, the stories of the men and women who didn’t live to make the trip home will rightly be told at thousands of Memorial Day celebrations in little towns and big cities across the United States.

Fifty-one years is a long time to wait for recognition. But the people of Scranton know it is never too late for the living to show our gratitude for the sacrifices that make America’s freedom possible.

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