50 years later, a Vietnam veteran gets his due decorations

Jul 22, 2019

A local Vietnam War veteran was presented Monday with several decorations for his service, honors owed to him for roughly five decades.

With his family present, Sergeant Phillip Yockey was presented with the Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Medal, Vietnam Service Medal with two Bronze Service Stars, Driver and Mechanic Badge, Vietnam Campaign Ribbon and the Vietnam Veteran Lapel Pin.

Phillip Yockey sits with his family after receiving several overdue awards and honors for his service in the Vietnam War. With him at the ceremony, held within the Buffalo VA Hospital, were members of his family (left to right): daughter Nicole, wife Charlene and granddaughter Martina.
Credit Michael Mroziak, WBFO

He was recognized for serving ten years in the United States Army.

"I was a mechanic when I first got there," Yockey said. "Afterwards, I got promoted in the field to Sergeant and then I was ... whatever they told me to do, I would do."

During his service in Vietnam, he was exposed to Agent Orange, the herbicide linked to various cancers and other serious medical complications. He has lost both of his legs and lives with diabetes and heart ailments.

He was asked why it took so long to receive his medals and honors. He still hasn't received an explanation as to why.

"There still isn't," he replied. "Just that they wanted to honor you and didn't give it to you at the time."

He recalled the lack of a hero's welcome to which many Vietnam veterans returned. His wife, Charlene, explained that the government didn't approach them about the overdue honors. It was their efforts which brought it to the attention of people in power and when Congressman Brian Higgins' office was informed of Yockey's story, things started moving. Higgins presented the medals, joined by Paul Marzello, the president and chief executive officer of the Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park. The latter informed Yockey and his family that his name will be added to the Naval Park's Wall of Fame.

Though pleased by Monday's recognition, Charlene Yockey expressed a regret that others like her husband may continue to live out their lives without their due decorations.

"There's veterans out there who don't have families. Nobody's honoring them because there's nobody to go and look for them," she said.