On Your Side: Dayton veteran waits 50 years for recognition of military service
At the age of 18, Charles Leatherman found himself in the jungles of Vietnam, never sure where the enemy might be lurking.
One incident in particular stands out many years later.
"I know we were under fire," he explained during a recent interview at his home in Dayton.
"I know there was a lot of gunshots. When you're in a situation like that , you react," he said.
Leatherman reacted by dodging gunfire and saving several of his comrades, according to an article from a publication called the Army Reporter dated April 29, 1967, and another article from an unknown source dated about the same time.
The Army Reporter headline states "Medic Braves Death for Buddies," and the ensuing article describes what Leatherman did this way:
"Reaching the wounded men, Leatherman stripped his medical equipment from his back and dragged one man back to safety. He returned for the others in two more perilous trips."
Leatherman says he was just doing what he was trained to do.
"My job was to go out there and get 'em," he said. "So I did my job. That's all I did."
The problem is, the Army hasn't been able to confirm any of what was reported in those articles or what Leatherman has recounted from that day.
So we turned to U.S. Rep. Mark Amodei's staff for help.
Tracy Soliday, Amodei's military and veterans representative, started sifting through dozens of pages of documents and reaching out to her contacts at the Army. She soon learned something had been overlooked in Leatherman's file after all these years.
Six things actually:
"He received or was supposed to receive six medals that were never issued," Soliday told us. "So we're getting those."
The honors Leatherman never received include a Vietnam Campaign Medal and a Combat Medical Badge.
We asked Soliday if she has any idea why Leatherman never received those honors.
"You know, it was over 50 years ago so it's hard to ascertain what might have happened," she said.
Soliday says in the jungles of Vietnam, records were not always kept. And when they were, they did not always follow veterans from unit to unit, meaning historical accounts were often incomplete or missing altogether.
"It was a difficult time, there was a lot going on, it wasn't a popular war, so some things fell through the cracks," she said.
That is the harsh reality when it comes to the record of war. Much of what actually happens on the front lines never makes it into any official transcripts.
Whether the Army can ever verify those published accounts of what happened that day remains to be seen.
But for Charles Leatherman, part of the record is finally getting cleared up after being overlooked for half a century.
The former combat medic takes all that in stride.
"There's a lot of people who've done a lot of things who haven't been recognized,"
He served his country. And that's an honor no one can take from him.
Amodei's staff says they will schedule a time in the near future to present those medals to Leatherman once they arrive.
They have also asked the Army to take a deeper look into Leathermans's military record to help piece together any missing information.