The U.S. Army wanted to right a wrong on Monday night in Gig Harbor.
Paul Evans, a Gig Harbor resident and Vietnam War veteran, was awarded a belated Bronze Star at the City Council meeting. He was out on reconnaissance mission when a fellow soldier looked for relief from carrying the M-60 machine gun. At the top of the hill, he and his unit stumbled into a Viet Cong encampment. A loud boom rang out.
Evans dropped to the ground and decided being wounded was better than dead. His idea was the Viet Cong would run if he began to shoot, so he aimed his machine gun up and began to shoot at the sky. The Viet Cong dispersed and a cease fire was called.
Brig. Gen. James Jerrard, deputy commanding general of operations for the 7th Infantry Division at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, pinned Evans and spoke about what it meant to formally recognize the retired soldier for his bravery. In the speed of getting soldiers home after the war, Jerrard said, Evans was not formally recognized. The Bronze Star recognizes acts of heroism, achievement and service in a combat zone.
“(W)e get to award Paul a small strip of cloth, and unfortunately the Army can’t do more for their service members in a lot of ways,” Jerrard said. “As I reflect back on Paul’s service in a difficult time for our nation, there was not a lot of unity in what we were doing overseas, and yet we still asked our sons and our daughters to serve the nation and to serve it proudly. And that’s exactly what Paul did.”
Once the star was pinned, the audience erupted into loud applause.
Evan’s family attended the ceremony, and Jerrard took a moment to thank family members for their behind-the-scenes service of supporting Evans.
“So many times we pull soldiers away for missed birthdays and missed anniversaries ... so we can’t thank you enough for your service to our country by supporting him,” Jerrad said. “So on behalf of a very thankful nation, thank you for your service.”