Local Vietnam era heroes honored with medal displays

Posted at: 11/09/2012 11:38 PM
By: Dan Levy

LATHAM - Half a century ago, The United States went to war in a tiny Southeast Asian country that most Americans had never even heard of. In Latham Friday night, two local heroes of the Vietnam Era were honored for their service in a very special way.

At a time when American teenagers were more likely to be collecting rock-n-roll records or baseball trading cards, David Barnum of Averill Park, and Terry Fox, of Lansingburgh were flying over the jungles of Southeast Asia picking up wounded soldiers and collecting medals.

Terry Fox admits he was a wild child after graduating from high school in the 1960s, not doing anything positive to honor his family's name. So he enlisted in the marines and shipped out to Vietnam.

"When I first went over there was the same trepidation that anybody had," Fox says, "I'd already lost some friends and some friend had been wounded."

Fox, 64, served as a helicopter crew chief, transporting injured marines and equipment. Friday night he was presented with a shadow box, compliments of the Disabled American Veterans chapter 38. The display included many of the 120 or so medals he earned, including a Purple Heart, a Distinguished Flying Cross, and a Presidential Unit Citation.

"I feel my service, however small or great, may have done somebody some good somewhere," he humbly stated.

Meanwhile, when David Barnum finished high school, he enlisted in the army, soon arriving in Vietnam where he remembers stifling heat, an unforgettable stench, and something else.

"All of a sudden, you're looking at guys carrying loaded weapons and that was like a wake up call," he said, "You knew you're not in Kansas any more."

Barnum became a door gunner on a Medevac chopper, earning two Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star, and numerous other awards.

"When I came home, all my medals were in shoe boxes," he recalls. "I gave them to my mother. She threw them in a hope chest and I never took them out."

Those awards, medals, and citations, many of them lost or misplaced over the years, were presented to Barnum Friday night, and even though the display preserves his heroic legacy, Barnum says it reminds him of something else.

"Guys in my outfit that didn't come home," he asserts, "They're the real heroes. They're the ones that really paid the ultimate price."

"The appreciation of what I, and others, have accomplished, and being recognized (for it) is a very gratifying feeling," Fox added.

After returning home, both Fox and Barnum continued to life of service. In 2005, Fox retired from the Troy Fire Department after 30 years on the job. Barnum has been a member of the Averill Park Volunteer Fire Company for 47 years.