By Erik Sandin
WOODBURY — Like many military veterans, Stewart Brooks, a Monticello High School Class of 1966 graduate, quietly deflects praise for his service to his comrades who did not come home from Vietnam.
Last Monday, it was Brooks’ turn to be honored for his service and heroism in battle when U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann awarded Brooks a long delayed but deserved Distinguished Flying Cross medal in a ceremony at Bachmann’s Woodbury district office.
Brooks currently lives in the Washington County city of Lakeland.
With Brooks’ wife, children and other family members watching, Bachmann pinned the medal to Brooks’ sweater as state representative and retired U.S.Army Chief Warrant Officer 4 Bob Dettmer read the award citation.
“This is something that’s great to do,” Bachmann said about the Dec. 17 ceremony.
“I’m very glad to be here. Very glad to present this,” she said.
After the ceremony, the soft-spoken 64-year-old 3M retiree said although he knew years ago he was nominated for the medal, he was nervous about receiving the honor.
“I feel calmer,” he said.
The Distinguished Flying Cross is awarded for heroism and extraordinary achievement during aerial flight operations and can be awarded to members of all branches of the military.
“It’s not something that’s handed out,” Dettmer said about the medal. “Sometimes it takes a little while to award it.”
Brooks served one year in Vietnam as a Specialist 4 with the 71st Aviation Company, 14th Aviation Battalion.
His medal was for heroism while on an Aug. 18, 1969, aerial mission as a helicopter door gunner.
“Specialist Four Brooks voluntarily participated in an ammunition re-supply mission in the Song Chang Valley,” Dettmer read from the citation.
“He knowingly leaned out from the relative security of his gun well into effective enemy fire without gunship cover to ensure that they were positioned in the right area.
“Despite his aircraft sustaining multiple hits, Specialist 4 Brooks maintained his vulnerable position, off-loading critically needed ammunition, clearing the aircraft for take-off and help direct the pilot away from additional enemy fire,” Dettmer added. “His courageous and timely actions were instrumental in saving a company-sized element from being overrun and contributed to the overall success of the mission.”
Bachmann aide Jason Frye said Bachmann’s office worked with Ohio Congressman Robert Latta to get Brooks and several other soldiers aboard the helicopter their medals.
“There were several people with him who got the award,” Frye said.
“It does take several years for this to go through. I believe four other people received the medal.”
Frye said the process included field officers looking over the citation and supporting records, then sending the citation through the Army. He added that Brooks knew he was recommended for the award.
“He was aware that the process was underway,” Frye said.
“The person who put in for it said it would take seven to eight years to do it,” Brooks said. “Thirty- plus years later, he said it needed to be done.”
But Brooks’ wife, Kathy, perhaps offered the best perspective as her husband spoke with family members once the ceremony was completed.
“I understand his humbleness. There are awards that are hard to receive because so many others did not come home,” she said.
The full citation awarding the Distinguished Flying Cross to U.S. Army Specialist 4 Stewart C. Brooks reads as follows;
“The President of the United States, authorized by Act of Congress, 2 July 1926, has awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross To Specialist 4 Stewart C. Brooks, 71st Aviation Company, 14th Aviation Battalion For Heroism: While participating in aerial flight on 18 August 1969 as a UH-1 Helicopter Door Gunner with the 71st Aviation Company, 14th Aviation Battalion, 16th Aviation Group, 23rd Infantry Division, in the Republic of Vietnam. Specialist 4 Brooks voluntarily participated in an ammunition resupply mission in the Song Chang Valley.
He knowingly leaned out from the relative security of his gun well into effective enemy fire without gunship cover to ensure that there was positioned in the right area. Despite his aircraft sustaining multiple hits, Specialist 4 Brooks maintained his vulnerable position, off loading the critically needed ammunition, clearing the aircraft for take off and helping direct the pilot away from additional enemy fire.
His courageous and timely actions were instrumental in saving a company- sized element from being overrun and contributed to the overall success of the mission. Specialist 4 Brooks distinctive accomplishments are in keeping with the finest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, the 71st Aviation Company and the United States Army.”