2017-12-21 / Front Page

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED

VIETNAM WAR VET GETS HIS DUE 50 YEARS LATER
BY RYAN GIBBS


Vietnam veteran Paul Harvey, left, wearing his Silver Star with U.S. Sen. Jack Reed during a Dec. 8 ceremony at Reed’s office in Cranston. Reed secured the eight medals Harvey had earned nearly 50 years ago while serving in the U.S. Army. Vietnam veteran Paul Harvey, left, wearing his Silver Star with U.S. Sen. Jack Reed during a Dec. 8 ceremony at Reed’s office in Cranston. Reed secured the eight medals Harvey had earned nearly 50 years ago while serving in the U.S. Army. While scouring through a jungle for a missing brother-in-arms, Paul Harvey and his team were ambushed by the Viet Cong.

Enemy hand grenades tossed at their backs left Harvey injured and a fellow soldier dead.

Startled, but undeterred, the Americans persisted for another 100 yards toward the North Vietnamese camp, where they had been fighting the night before. This time, however, no man was left behind. Harvey found his countryman alive, retrieved the soldier’s rifle and returned both to safety.

It wasn’t until this month, however, that the North Road veteran was recognized for those heroics. It took nearly 50 years.

Harvey was belatedly presented with eight medals owed to him for his service during Vietnam. Among them were the Silver Star, which is the third-highest decoration for valor in combat, and the Purple Heart.


Army Sgt. Paul Harvey in Vietnam during the late 1960s. After 43 years of silence, the North Road man was bestowed the medals he earned in war with the 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division, known as the “Wolfhounds.” Army Sgt. Paul Harvey in Vietnam during the late 1960s. After 43 years of silence, the North Road man was bestowed the medals he earned in war with the 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division, known as the “Wolfhounds.” “It’s wonderful. I’m proud as a peacock right now,” Harvey said. “I even wear them.”

Reasons for the delay

Although Harvey knew he earned the Silver Star, he never coveted the physical medal. That was until he stumbled upon a letter from his company written during the war. As far as he knew, this was the only surviving documentation that confirmed his accolades. His wife, Wendy, nudged him toward U.S. Sen. Jack Reed because of the senator’s reputation with the military.

“He’s the guy to go to,” Harvey said.

Reed didn’t disappoint. During a Dec. 8 ceremony at the senator’s Chapel View office in Cranston, Harvey formally was presented with his medals.

“Mr. Harvey’s service was in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Army and reflects great credit upon himself and the United States of America,” said the attention to orders. “Our nation and the state of Rhode Island gives our grateful thanks to Mr. Harvey for his dedicated and loyal service.”

There are two reasons Harvey didn’t accept his medals in the 1960s. First, he wasn’t told about the Silver Star until he was ready to depart Vietnam. He would have had to remain in Southeast Asia for another three weeks to attend the formal ceremony. Second, he was afraid of the stigma against Vietnam veterans. Because of the hostility, Harvey kept his service a secret for decades. Soldiers arriving stateside from the unpopular war were spit upon and called baby killers.

“We didn’t get treated well,” he said. “We were told to wear civilian clothes and hats. … So, I came home and kept it a secret for 43 years.”

Call to service

Harvey, who was born in Gloucester, Mass., moved with his family to Narragansett when he was a toddler. In his early 20s, the family moved again, this time to Nova Scotia, where Harvey obtained his dual American-Canadian citizenship. That’s when he received a draft notice from the U.S. military in 1967. Harvey was no stranger to military life; his father was a U.S. Navy veteran of World War II.

“I couldn’t disappoint him,” Harvey said. “So, I came home and went.”

He returned to the United States, enlisted in the Army and reported to basic training at Fort Jackson in South Carolina. Fifteen weeks after the draft letter reached his front door in Canada, he was on the ground in the Cu Chi district of Vietnam with the 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division, known as the “Wolfhounds.” Just south of Saigon, the district is known for its elaborate tunnel system that acted as a base of operations for the Viet Cong.

During his 13 months in Vietnam, Harvey was injured by hand grenades during enemy ambushes about a month from each other. One of those incidents, during the search-and-rescue mission, earned him the Purple Heart and the Silver Star. He has a Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster to symbolize his other injury.

Harvey left Vietnam after a single tour of duty. He was promised a promotion to lieutenant, but that required three more tours. He turned down the offer.

After returning to the United States in 1968, Harvey was stationed at Fort Campbell in Kentucky. He trained infantry troops for six months before being honorably discharged as a sergeant in 1969. When he came home, he worked with his father in Point Judith before embarking on a 45- year career as a commercial fisherman in Newport. He moved to Jamestown in 1983 and married Wendy in 2000. By the turn of the millennium, with his wife by his side, Harvey finally began to open up about his service.

Along with the Silver Star and Purple Heart, Harvey received six other awards: the National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Combat Infantry

Badge, Republic of Vietnam Campaign Ribbon with Device, Expert Badge Rifle Bar and a Sharpshooter Badge with Auto Rifle Bar. He plans to frame these awards and display them in his home.

Harvey’s ceremony became national news after an Associated Press wire story was picked up by several newspapers, including The Washington Post, Miami Herald and Chicago Tribune. Locally, the Newport Daily News and Providence Journal also ran profile stories. Harvey was intrigued about the media attention.

“I was scared to death at the beginning, but now I kind of like it,” he said. “It’s a good thing. At least it ain’t the police beat.”

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