The USO Center at Tampa International Airport hosted a medal ceremony on Tuesday, April 2, for former Army Sergeant Ralph Morgan who received the Silver Star that he was originally approved for over 42 years ago following a battle in Vietnam. The ceremony was the first for the airport’s USO Center that opened in September 2012.
Morgan, an Army Special Forces radio operator serving at a remote outpost in Vietnam, saved his platoon by drawing enemy fire away from fellow troops, allowing them to get to safety. Morgan was armed only with his M-16 rifle, while taking fire from the North Vietnamese Army attacking with small arms, rockets and mortars, and acted “with disregard for his own personal safety.”
Florida U.S. Senator Bill Nelson presented the award to Morgan, after reading aloud an account of his actions in battle. The senator also read the official commendation and pinned the medal on Morgan.
“Although it’s 42 years later, it’s not too late,” said Nelson.
Morgan was originally approved for the award not long after the battle, but the paperwork was lost. When he heard about Senator Nelson recently helping other veterans with similar situations, Morgan said that he decided to contact Nelson’s office for help.
“There’s not a day or night that goes by that I don’t remember the guys I served with, the battles, the fun we had, and the sacrifice that many of them made,” said Morgan.
Morgan says that the memory of the soldiers who were lost is still painful, but he says that he takes some comfort in the lives that were saved, and in knowing that many came home thanks to his actions.