Gold Star Family in Milan receives awards their loved one earned in the Vietnam War, 53 years later

Local News

A Gold Star Family in Milan finally got the ceremony they deserve … 53 years after their relative died in the Vietnam War.

Monday morning, Rock Island Arsenal soldiers presented the Derry family with the recognition their loved one, PFC David Wayne Derry, earned in Vietnam, as he lost his life in the war in 1968. The soldiers presented Marie Nelsen, David’s widowed wife, with the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, and Combat Infantryman Badge, as well as an American flag. Nelsen had spent the last few years working with her state of Illinois representative to finally get the awards and was overcome with joy and emotion when she got approved to receive them.

“He absolutely deserved them,” said Nelsen of her deceased husband and the awards. “He paid the ultimate price, and finally they are where they should be.”

When soldiers at the Rock Island Arsenal heard the news, they knew they had to give Marie and her family a proper presentation ceremony.

“Anytime we can honor a fallen brother, and more importantly honor their family and the Gold Star mother and daughter, we will stop all that we’re doing to do this,” said Lieutenant General Tony Aguto, Jr., Commanding General of First Army on the Rock Island Arsenal.

Nelsen says the plan is for her late husband’s awards to be passed down through generations of her family, especially to her daughter and grandchildren who joined her at the ceremony and never got to meet David.

“I’m very, so very, very thankful for them, and I know my daughter, she’s anxiously awaiting for me to pass them on down to her,” Nelsen said. “He might be gone, but he continues on through his daughter, his grandchildren, and his great-grandchildren.”

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