55 Years of Faith: Wall’s Vietnam Veteran Receives Bronze Star

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MANASQUAN, NJ — At 77, former 5th Army Specialist George Bednarski of Wall reflected on his service more than 55 years ago during the Vietnam War.

“I supported all the people, especially those on the front line, who were in constant contact with enemy forces,” Bednarski said.

His remarks came on Saturday when he was finally presented with the Bronze Star – an honor for which he had been recommended in 1967 but the confusion of the war and then years of bureaucracy prevented him from receive.

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But on Saturday, exactly 55 years after his honorable discharge from the military, Rep. Chris Smith, 4th District, presented the award to Bednarski during a ceremony at VFW Post 1838 in Manasquan, of which Bednarski is a member.

“This award is not for me to be a hero, but rather to support these heroes on the pitch and others who support them and their mission,” Bednarski said.

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“They depended on me to make sure we had accurate and operational target acquisition data to take out hostile mortar fire. I tried to stay focused the whole time to do my job. I knew we were in danger at all times in the execution of our mission,” he said. .

Smith’s office explained Bednarski’s role in the war: “For 16 months he had the heavy responsibility of quickly identifying incoming mortar fire and quickly relaying the data to American and South Vietnamese artillery for counterattack. Under his watch, he kept this vital protection at over 99%. operational, well above average. Sometimes he was so effective that his comrades were able to launch counter-mortar fire even before enemy mortars landed. His stellar skills have not gone unnoticed; unbeknownst to him, he was chosen by his superiors to be honored for meritorious service for his high level of performance, the statement from Smith’s office read.

But the recommendation was somehow lost. More recently, the medal had been declined for technical reasons for the past 15 years.

But Smith was successful in August in convincing the Secretary of the Army to cut red tape and approve the Bronze Star medal, his office said in the statement.

The medal, with Bednarski’s name engraved on the back, arrived from Fort Knox in late September.

And on Saturday, he was introduced to her by Smith.

“I had faith, faith in Congressman Smith and his staff, faith that one day this would happen,” Bednarski said. “It’s been a long time – 55 years – but it’s exciting that this day has come.”

“It was years of paperwork that we had to get through,” said Smith, who first contacted the military in 2007 when Bednarski contacted him after learning from a fellow soldier who had been awarded the star. bronze for the same work and was convinced that Bednarski deserved it too.

“George followed the rules. He was patient. He filled out forms. He sought out witnesses, including people in his chain of command who recommended him for this award. It took years. In the end, Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth agreed with us that he deserved the Bronze Star. It’s extremely late, but extremely well deserved. We appreciate the secretary’s actions,” Smith said.

During his service in Vietnam, Bednarski said he was driven to give his best at all times due to the dangers all faced from enemy mortar attacks.

Smith said Bednarski even volunteered to stay on for two extensions of his tour, just to make sure his replacement would learn the job before he left.

“George did his duty to the highest possible standard and lives were saved because of it. He did his duty and more. He went beyond the call,” Smith said. “He should wear that bronze star with pride.”

Bednarski, who volunteered to serve in Vietnam, said his electronics skills acquired in the military helped land him a job at IBM, where he rose through the ranks during a 39-year career. up to the position of regional director. He lives in Wall with his wife, Karen, who was by his side on Saturday.

Secretary Wormuth wrote to Smith, “It is an honor to bestow this recognition in honor of Mr. Bednarski’s dedicated and faithful service to the nation.

Smith’s office explained that the Army first declined the medal in 2008 for lack of a recommender in its chain of command and again in 2021 when Bednarski returned with a recommendation from a chief warrant officer in its chain of command. who was adamant that he deserved the medal. In May, Smith collected the evidence and appealed directly to Wormuth who eventually agreed and ordered the Army Decorations Board to review Bednarski’s case again. There is more information on the match and background here.

Bednarski requested that Smith be the official to present the medal, and Smith also presented him with an American flag flying above the Capitol.

“To this day, George serves fellow veterans as a trained veterans service officer, helping them navigate the often confusing maze of veterans administration,” Smith said. “It’s not Vietnam, but it still takes many small battles to help the men and women who have worn the uniform receive the VA services they need and have earned,” Smith said. .

George Bednarski in Vietnam shown holding an M79 grenade launcher, leaning against a US 105mm howitzer.
(Photo courtesy of Congressional Office of Rep. Chris Smith)

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