They’re about 40 years overdue, but that didn’t bother Stephen Bailey one bit. Friday afternoon, he finally got the military medals he earned in the Vietnam War and the years immediately afterward.
Bailey enlisted in the Army in 1967 and was assigned to an explosive ordnance unit, and went off to the deadly jungles of Vietnam. He was wounded there, shot on Thanksgiving Day 1969.
After three months in the hospital he was discharged, but turned right around and re-enlisted, serving another decade, including a security detail on Air Force One for three U.S. presidents.
Bailey’s nine medals include the Purple Heart for that wound and the Bronze Star.
"I never thought I was doing anything extraordinary," he said after receiving his medals in a ceremony at UNM. "But other people think I did, and it’s good to get that support."
U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich met Bailey at a tax forum, heard about the overdue medals, and put his staff to work on the problem. Heinrich presented Bailey with the medals Friday, pinning the Purple Heart on the veteran’s left lapel.
"The medals mean a lot to me because it was probably the most important part of my life," Bailey said. "You know, the saying goes ‘may you live in interesting times.’ Well, I did!" Heinrich said the occasion was a time to remember and honor all those who have served the country – and those who are doing that right now.