Fifty-six members of an Army military police company, known as the "Bushwhackers" of Bravo Company, were awarded meritorious Bronze Stars for their service in Vietnam. This historic event marked the first time a military police unit engaged in a three-year infantry counterinsurgency mission from 1967 to 1970. The ceremony, held at the U.S. Capitol, was attended by Representative Bob Latta, who had advocated for the recognition of Bravo Company.
The Army also announced a comprehensive review and records search to identify other troops who may have missed out on awards and citations throughout history. Major General Thomas Drew, commander of the Army's Human Resources Command, explained that paperwork could have been lost commanders might not have had the opportunity to submit the necessary forms. The Army began screening over a million World War II records and planned to digitize them for potential storage in the Library of Congress.
Bravo Company's mission involved deterring enemy attacks on Long Binh Post, the largest U.S. logistical base in Vietnam. They adapted to the challenge by receiving on-the-job training in combat patrolling, ambushes, and perimeter defense. Former Captain Daryl Solomonson, the company commander, acknowledged the difficulties of transforming a military police unit into an infantry company but praised his troops' adaptability and dedication.
The soldiers of Bravo Company also had their own navy, partnering with transportation personnel to operate Patrol Boats, Riverine (PBRs) and Boston whalers. Their efforts were recognized with a total of 24 Purple Heart medals, including 13 posthumous awards for troops killed in action. Initially hoping for the Combat Infantryman Badge, they were deemed ineligible due to their military occupational specialty. However, the Army offered them the Bronze Star for meritorious service, which they gladly accepted.
The presentation of 56 meritorious Bronze Stars aligned with General George C. Marshall's original intention for the medal during World War II. Marshall believed that immediate recognition would boost morale among ground combat troops. Doug Sterner, a combat engineer veteran and military award citations expert, commended the Army's decision to honor Bravo Company with the Bronze Stars. He emphasized the importance of recognizing those who have served and praised the military awards system for taking the right step.
The ceremony provided official recognition for Bravo Company's service and was a meaningful moment for the surviving members. It symbolized their sacrifices and dedication, which had often gone unnoticed upon their return from Vietnam. The event also paid tribute to Thomas Watson, a key figure in the efforts to secure the awards for Bravo Company.
Overall, the recognition of Bravo Company and the Army's commitment to reviewing past honors demonstrated a sincere appreciation for the sacrifices made by servicemen and women throughout history.