Twenty years later, Baiting Hollow vet gets his medals

10/09/2011 10:00 AM |

SAMANTHA BRIX PHOTO | Congressman Tim Bishop presented 15 medals to Army and National Guard veteran Brian Smith Saturday. Mr. Smith had not received five of the medals he was owed since he was discharged in 1991.

Brian Smith had earned 15 medals by the time he was discharged from the military in 1991, but he only had 10 medals in his possession for the past two decades.

He first attempted to receive the remaining five medals last summer from the National Personnel Records Center. He said officials at the center didn’t respond for a year, so he contacted Congressman Tim Bishop about three weeks ago. Mr. Bishop facilitated and on Saturday he presented Mr. Smith with a complete set of his medals — ten replacements and the five he was owed — at the VFW Hall in Riverhead.

Mr. Smith, an Army and National Guard veteran who lives in Baiting Hollow, worked as an aircraft electrician during Desert Storm and he served overseas deployments in Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Kuwait.

Mr. Bishop thanked Mr. Smith for his service in front of about 20 people who gathered at the VFW Hall.

“I’m just sorry it took this long to give Brian the public recognition he so richly deserves,” Mr. Bishop said.

Congressman Tim Bishop

SAMANTHA BRIX PHOTO | Army and National Guard veteran Brian Smith and Congressman Tim Bishop (center) with (from far left) Mr. Smith's father-in-law, Bill McMullen, mother-in-law Barbara McMullen, wife, Kerrie, daughter, Keeley, 9, son, Logan, 7, nephew, Gabriel Smith, 10, stepmother, Barbara Smith, and sister-in-law, Rosemarie Schuler Smith.

Mr. Smith isn’t sure why he didn’t receive all of his earned medals for a full two decades, but he suspects some of them were on back order. He said he’s “very grateful” to have his entire medal collection in his possession.

“I’m in shock,” he said, referring to the speed with which Mr. Bishop delivered the medals.

Mr. Smith said receiving the medals was “overwhelming,” as it reminded him of his father, who was also a veteran and had been in the process of obtaining his own medals when he died last summer.

Mr. Smith’s wife and children said they were proud of him for earning the medals.

“He deserves to be recognized for his service to our country,” his wife Kerrie said.

His daughter Keeley said she’s “happy that he’s happy.”

“I’m proud of him because he’s a hero and I look up to him,” the 9-year-old said.

sbrix@timesreview.com