Warren County man gets military honors 50 years after Vietnam action

A Warren County man was awarded the Purple Heart and other military commendations on Friday, almost 50 years after he earned them.

The medal ceremony culminated a series of events begun when Timothy Shelton of Carlisle contacted the office of Sen. Rob Portman, (R-Ohio) for help with a disability claim.

Portman’s office provided Shelton a DVD of his complete military record.

“I found the paperwork where I got wounded in Vietnam,” he recalled before Friday’s ceremony.

With this discovery and further action by Shelton and Portman’s office, a bureaucratic error made when Shelton was discharged from the U.S. Army in 1971 was corrected.

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Portman singled out Kristy Ramey, a caseworker in his Columbus office, for helping Shelton navigate the bureaucracy.

“We want to be helpful,” Portman said, noting the importance of such recognition, particularly in Ohio, home to nearly 1 million veterans.

Shelton, 70, also received the Vietnam Service Medal with three Bronze Service Stars, the Combat Infantryman Badge, Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Republic of Vietnam Campaign Ribbon and the Marksman Badge with Rifle Bar and Machine Gun Bar.

With family and dignitaries looking on, Shelton was presented with the medals during a ceremony at the Warren County Administration Building.

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“This means you’ve made direct contact with enemy forces,” Col. Daniel Shank, assistant adjutant general-Army for Ohio and commander of the Ohio Army National Guard, said in reference to the Purple Heart.

After graduating from Carlisle High School, Shelton said he enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1968 and was sent to Vietnam.

“There wasn’t anybody hiring us. I just went into the Army,” he said.

He was wounded on May 3, 1968, when a land mine was set off as his 3rd Infantry platoon patrolled outside Chu Lai.

“It took out six of us,” he recalled.

Shelton took shrapnel to the chest. Five others were also hit, including one who died as a result of his wounds.

Shelton was air-lifted to safety and returned to active duty before leaving Vietnam in March 1969.

His son, Timothy Shelton II, said he knew little of his father’s military service.

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“He’s never been one to talk about those days much,” the son said before the ceremony. “We’re all proud of him and glad he’s getting what he’s deserved after all these years.”

The elder Shelton returned to the U.S. and was stationed at Fort Leonardwood in Missouri, where he trained then served as a drill sergeant for basic training.

He was discharged in 1971, although the clerk processing him found no evidence Shelton had been wounded. Rather than press the issue, “I said, ‘The Hell with it,’ and came home,” he said.

Shelton returned to Carlisle where he has otherwise spent his entire life. He worked in a factory and as a police and security officer before hiring on at Lebanon Correctional Institution.

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He retired in 1998, after time as a guard, firearms instructor, hostage negotiator and staff training director for the prison system.

During the ceremony, Shelton thanked Portman, his staff and all the military dignitaries in the room for supporting veterans.

“I don’t think I need to be recognized,” he said before the ceremony, explaining how the disability inquiry led to Friday’s ceremony. “This isn’t about me. The guys who need the credit didn’t come home.”

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