American Hero Awarded Purple Heart and POW Medals
(January 12, 2010)
|WASHINGTON (1/7/2010 - NNS) -- A Navy veteran accepted his
Prisoner of War and Purple Heart medals at the Washington
Navy Yard Jan. 4 - more than 40 years after his service in
Lawrence J. Stark was one of only two Department of Defense
civilian employees who were captured and he spent five years
as a prisoner.
"This gentleman lost half a decade of his life in captivity
and served as part of the Department of Defense when he was
captured," said Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Manpower
and Reserve Affairs) Juan Garcia. "That kind of sacrifice is
rare. We haven't had anyone held for that long in [recent]
conflicts; it doesn't happen like that anymore. So it's an
honor to be here to meet and be part of a ceremony for a
real American hero."
After fighting off attacks for two days, Stark was
eventually captured on Feb. 1, 1968 during the Tet
Offensive. He was released five years later in March 1973.
Members of Stark's family, in attendance for the ceremony,
said that the family did not know Stark's fate until just
before his release and his father died without knowing that
his son was a POW.
"He was taken captive and really the family did not know for
sure if he was alive, if he had survived the capture until
shortly before his release in 1973," said brother-in-law
Richard Flammini. "Unfortunately his father died during his
captivity but the family never gave up hope that he would
come back and fortunately he did and we are here today and
really excited for the opportunity to reward him for his
service and his perseverance."
Stark was working for the Department of Labor in Washington,
D.C. when he was invited to go to Vietnam and work for a
consortium of contractors (RMK-BRJ) under contract to DoD.
Stark accepted the invitation and went to Vietnam in April
1966 and spent a year with RMK-BRJ before returning to the
United States. After a couple of months, Stark returned to
Vietnam and was hired as a U.S. Navy civil service employee.
Stark was assigned to work in the city of Hue in December
1967 and was taken prisoner two months later. At the time of
the capture, the five military personnel next door and the
four men in his house, combined forces and resisted capture.
At the end of two days of fighting, with practically no
ammunition left with which to defend themselves, two men had
been killed and everyone else was wounded.
"How does a civilian become eligible for a Purple Heart?
People ask me that all of the time," Stark said. "I tell
them that President Kennedy authorized the Purple Heart for
civilians in 1962 if certain conditions are met, one of
which is you had to be in combat. And we were in Hue, and we
were in combat. We defended the Navy building and in the
process lost a couple of guys and most of the guys were
wounded. They put a mortar right on the roof and four or
five of us happened to be right there. One guy who was
wounded died and the others all received wounds."
Presenting the medals to Stark at the ceremony inside the
U.S. Navy Museum was Naval District Washington Commandant
Rear Adm. Patrick J. Lorge who paid tribute to Stark's
"As service men and women we are trained to react during a
time of conflict or crisis," Lorge said. "However to
accomplish what Lawrence J. Stark did as a civilian is
nothing short of remarkable and deserves the highest
possible recognition. I'm proud to be in his presence and
humbled to share this stage with him and honored to present
him with both the Purple Heart and Prisoner of War medals."
After his release Stark worked in the human resources office
on the Washington Navy Yard for former director of Human
Resources Dr. Vincent Vaccaro.
"I am indeed honored and humbled that Larry has asked me to
speak this afternoon. First let me offer congratulations for
a long overdue recognition. I am extremely pleased today,'
Vaccaro said. "One of our colleagues is finally being
recognized for his courage and achievements."
In addition to receiving the two medals, two members of the
Rolling Thunder, Vietnam veterans Artie Muller and Michael
Cobb, presented Stark with a Rolling Thunder leather jacket
and declared him an honorary member.
"It's about time Larry was honored for his commitment to the
freedom of our country while he was in Vietnam. He was never
recognized with the POW medal, and he deserved it and has
waited many, many years for that and also for the Purple
Heart," Muller said.
By Darren Harrison|
Naval District Washington Public Affairs
the Navy News Service
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