WHITE PLAINS – Westchester County Executive Robert P. Astorino honored hundreds of Vietnam-era veterans in a ceremony Wednesday afternoon at the Kensico Dam Plaza.
The Westchester County Vietnam Service Medal was commissioned by Astorino to honor all active duty military from all branches stationed anywhere in the world during the years of the Vietnam War. Medals were also presented to the families and representatives of the 217 Westchester residents killed in action in Vietnam.
“Today, Westchester County honors all the men, women, Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, Navy, Marines, doctors, nurses, combat troops and support troops who were on active duty during the Vietnam era,” said Astorino. “Your service has allowed all of us to enjoy the freedom and liberty that are the hallmarks of our country, and the envy of the world.”
County Veterans Service Agency Director Ronald Tocci hosted the ceremony, which featured a flyover of Vietnam-era military aircraft, a rifle salute and Taps.
“At a time of protest and turmoil, you served, protected and defended our way of life,” said Tocci. “You sacrificed your own safety for each other and those you love.”
The first two medals awarded during the ceremony were presented posthumously to two unique individuals: Staff Sergeant Robert Charles Murray, of Tuckahoe, and Second Lieutenant John (Jack) Geoghegan of Pelham.
Murray was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for bravery shown when he saved the lives of others in his squad by throwing himself on a grenade.
Murray’s official Medal of Honor citation reads in part, “Staff Sgt. Murray’s extraordinary courage and gallantry, at the cost of his life, above and beyond the call of duty, are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit on him, his unit, and the U.S. Army.”
John Geoghegan, a graduate of Iona Prep, was the first Westchester resident to be killed in action in Vietnam. Geoghegan had just become a father when he was deployed to Vietnam in August of 1965. On November 15th of that year, he was killed in the battle of Ia Drang, while helping a wounded comrade, Willie Godbolt. Geoghegan was posthumously awarded the Silver Star, Bronze Star, Purple Heart and the Air Medal.
Following the formal ceremony, nearly 800 veterans came forward to receive their medals from County Executive Astorino, Tocci and other officials, as music of the era was played by members of the U.S. Military Academy Band.
In order to accurately and properly recognize the service of veterans, the Obama Administration and Congress issued concurrent proclamations establishing the years 1955 through 1975 as the “Vietnam Era.” This time frame takes into account the years of unrest leading up to America’s presence in Vietnam, as well as the period surrounding the final exit from Saigon.