RELEASE NUMBER: 090424-01
DATE POSTED: APRIL 24, 2009
Missing Special Forces Soldier awarded the Distinguished Service Cross 42 years after last seen in Vietnam
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (USASOC News Service, April 24, 2009) – The history of the U.S. Army Special Forces Regiment is short in relation to that of the rest of the United States Army, but long enough for fierce battles to become old war stories and for training missions to be lost to the vagueness of time and personal recollection.
But for the men, who have worn the Green Beret, the memories of their Special Forces brothers, especially those missing in action and killed in combat, will never fade.
After 42 years, Special Forces senior leaders stood at the second annual Special Forces Symposium in Fayetteville April 22 to remember Maj. Jack T. Stewart, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), who went missing during a ferocious engagement in Vietnam. They presented his family with the Stewart’s Distinguished Service Cross, which he received for exceptional gallantry while leading a Mobile Strike Force company comprised of U.S. and South Vietnamese soldiers near the Cambodian border March 24, 1967.
On that day two American Green Berets joined with South Vietnamese Soldiers to conduct a helicopter assault near the Cambodian border. The combined unit,included then Capt. Jack Stewart and Staff Sgt. Roger Hallberg. After landing near Bu Dop in Phuoc Long Province, their patrol was greeted by enemy automatic weapons fire. Hallberg returned to the rear area to report on the contact with the North Vietnamese Army force.
During the firefight, Stewart rallied his men to secure a helicopter landing zone against an advancing NVA force later estimated to be two heavily armed battalions, greatly outnumbering Stewart’s men. Stewart was last seen by American forces as he and Hallberg provided cover to retreating members of their Mobile Strike Force company.
Representing the Stewart family at the ceremony were Diane Hasner, Stewart’s former wife; son Troy Stewart and daughter Karen Kelly; Barbara Stewart Pratt, his sister; and Kermit Stewart, his cousin.
Speaking on behalf of the family during the ceremony, Kermit Stewart recounted the Stewart family’s uniformed service to the nation starting during the Revolutionary War, through the Civil War, both World Wars, Korea and Vietnam.
In a brief humorous moment, Kermit paralleled the 55 years required for Ezekiel Stewart to receive a pension for his service with the New Jersey State Volunteers during the American Revolution to the 42 years between the disappearance of Maj. Jack Stewart and the awarding of the DSC.
“I don’t know why it takes the Stewarts so long to be recognized for their service,” Kermit said, “but we finally get there.”
Wearing a red, white and blue scarf embroidered with Maj. Stewart’s name, unit and date of his disappearance, Hasner spoke of the importance of the award and ceremony to give closure the missing Green Beret.
“This has been a long time coming,” Hasner said. “It’s time for closure for family, friends and the men involved in the situation that day.”
One of the men involved in the action that day was John M. Throckmorton, the lone survivor of the firefight. In the days following the fateful mission, then 2nd Lt. Throckmorton submitted Stewart and Hallberg for valor awards. After meeting the Hallberg family four years ago, and learning that neither man had been awarded for their heroism in 1967, Throckmorton resubmitted paperwork which led to Hallberg being awarded the Silver Star, and the eventual awarding of the DSC to Stewart.
The Distinguished Service Cross is the second highest military decoration that can be awarded to a member of the United States Army and is awarded for extreme gallantry and risk of life in actual combat with an armed enemy force.