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Four decades later, Gentry awarded the Bronze Star 1st Sergeant receives honor for his services in Vietnam
By: LUCY RICCOMINI Review Staff, Staff Writer
On Feb. 19, a local veteran received a long-delayed bronze medal at the Armed Services Recruiting Center in Lancaster.
Ephrata resident 1st Sgt. Ron Gentry, USMC (Ret.) received a Bronze Star Medal with Combat "V" for heroic actions in Vietnam in 1966.
Though many years had passed before Gentry received his medal, it was clear that his proudest moments came from protecting his country during combat and not about receiving the award.
"It got lost in the shuffle. But that’s OK," Gentry told The Review. "We’re not there for that reason.
"When you’re in Vietnam, paperwork is in place for different awards, but sometimes they get lost," continued Gentry. "During conflict, these things can happen."
Gentry was nominated by Lt. Col. Hancock during his time in the service, but the medal was never processed and awarded to Gentry. In the meantime, Lt. Col. Hancock left his position and a new officer replaced him. But Gentry and Hancock stayed in touch and remained good friends. As time went on, Lt. Col. Hancock asked Gentry about the medal.
"He asked me if I ever received it," Gentry said. "And about six years ago, he started the paperwork to get it going again."
In 2006, congressman Joe Pitts began working with Lt. Col. Hancock and Gentry to process the award. Gentry was initially denied by the Marine Corps because of the length of time that had passed and Lt. Col. Hancock found that in order for Gentry to receive the medal from the Marine Corps, a congressman would have to become involved. Congressman Pitts, a fellow veteran, became active in the process of Gentry receiving the award. The award needed to be approved by the Marine Corps headquarters and then by the Secretary of the Navy. Pitts followed up and kept in contact until the award was approved. Unfortunately, Lt. Col. Hancock passed away only one week before the approval. Though he was unable to witness Gentry receiving his award, Hancock’s wife and family members attended the event to honor Gentry. Gentry’s sons and grandsons also attended.
"After so many years, it is wonderful to see 1st Sgt. Gentry receive the recognition that he deserves," Pitts told The Review. "He risked his life a countless number of times and his actions in combat saved lives. I’m proud to be able to work together with a fellow Vietnam veteran to get him this medal he was nominated for so long ago."
While in Vietnam, Gentry volunteered as a forward artillery observer deep within enemy territory. He directed effective fire missions day and night while under hostile fire. While voluntarily leading a dangerous reconnaissance mission, the lead vehicle in the unit struck a mine. Gentry coordinated a helicopter evacuation and returned to base camp. He volunteered to lead subsequent missions to first recover and then render the mine struck vehicle useless.
Gentry is modest about receiving his award and accepted the medal on behalf of all those that served our country.
"It’s an honor for all Marines," said Gentry. "The Marine Corps did an outstanding job. And knowing the Marine Corps, they’ll never let us down." More GENTRY, page A6