LOUISA COUNTY, Va. -- It was a moment 50 years in the making for Ronald Mallory from Louisa County.
During a ceremony at Fort Eustis in Newport News back on March 4, the Montpelier native -- who now resides in Mineral -- was awarded the bronze star medal with a “V” for valor in combat.
“I finally got the bronze star! I said Lord, after all these years, I lived to see it,” said Mallory
By definition, the bronze star medal is awarded to any person who -- while serving in the U.S. Military -- distinguished themselves by heroic or meritorious achievement or service. It is the fourth-highest ranking award a service member can receive. But a bronze medal with a "V" device is much rarer. Only one in 40 bronze stars are awarded with a “V."
“It symbolizes that I’ve done something worthwhile. Very important, and they recognize and see that I was a true soldier,” he said.
Hero might be a title more fitting Mallory, who served as an army specialist.
Back on February 23, 1971 while serving as fuel truck driver in Vietnam for the 359th Transportation Company he also helped a gun truck crew known as “Brutus”. They were engaged in an ambush under heavy fire on a route, which for U.S. Forces was one of the most dangerous checkpoints for supply convoys.
“Most of the time you went out you would see something. Sometimes it was light and sometimes it was heavy, but on this occasion, it was heavy,” said Mallory.
A grenade landed in his truck, and a crew member gave his life by diving over it to protect the rest of the group -- but it still seriously wounded two soldiers.
“I heard the explosion and I got up and looked over and saw they were hurt, and I had to get them out of there,” he said.
Miraculously, Mallory wasn’t hurt, but describing what he had to is so difficult for him, that he rarely talks about it.
“I went, and there was this burning tanker in the road so I had to push this burning tanker out the way to get them to safety so they could get medivac,” said Mallory, wiping tears from his eyes.
Despite driving down a mountain where he was not able to return fire, Mallory was able to save two lives.
While his bravery and professionalism took half a century to finally become recognized, Mallory says he feels as if a burden has been lifted of him.
“I felt different. I felt the relief because I was being recognized for something I did and something people didn’t know, and my family didn’t know. Now I can walk around out, when I go places, people recognize me and they can say, there’s that hero! That’s the guy right there!” he said.
Mallory was honorably discharged in 1971. When he returned home, he continued to drive trucks and was also an employee of Louisa County High School before retiring.