It's a moment Ralph Morgan has waited for more than half his life: the retired Special Forces sergeant was awarded the Silver Star medal Tuesday afternoon. The medal is the Armed Forces' symbol of gratitude for an unimaginable act of bravery.
But this thank you is a little bit late -- 42 years late, to be exact.
Morgan was manning an outpost alone in the thick of Vietnam back in June of 1971 when his platoon was suddenly caught in a surprise attack. Instead of taking cover, he fired back...intentionally directing the enemy towards himself, until the rest of his team out in the field could seek shelter.
He was just 19 at the time. Even today, Morgan insists he's no hero, saying he was simply doing his job.
"For us, especially Special Forces soldiers, your training takes over. You don't think, your sense of self just kind of disappears," Morgan said Tuesday.
He was supposed to get his Silver Star back in the 70s. But the paperwork got lost in the shuffle, until the issue was brought to the attention of U.S. Senator Bill Nelson.
"This is an example of the selflessness that has occurred in our U.S. military. Here is someone who deserved the third highest honor of gallantry, and he was so humble that 42 years later, because the paperwork never got processed, he is finally getting the honor he deserved over four decades ago," Senator Nelson said during the Silver Star ceremony.
The symbol of valor is finally where it belongs: pinned close to the heart of one of our nation's most humble heroes.
"I've never felt so important before in my life. It's a wonderful day for me," Morgan said.
Sgt. Morgan said he did write the Army years ago to find out the status of his Silver Star. He was told the paperwork documenting his act of bravery was lost in a fire.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
Didn't find what you were looking for?