Army for life: Retired Soldier receives Bronze Star for service in Vietnam

January 25, 2019

Retired U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Mario Olivo was awarded a Bronze Star medal for combat service in Vietnam during a ceremony at U.S. Central Command headquarters, Jan. 22, 2019. He initially received notification of his award in the mail, yet felt that it would be fitting to be recognized for it in front of his family.

Olivo found out post-retirement that he was eligible to receive the Bronze Star while serving with Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 52nd Infantry in the Republic of Vietnam from Jan. 1971 until Oct. 1971. After years of tracking down substantiating documents and submitting paperwork for the award, he sought out assistance to actually receive it.

After some unsuccessful attempts, Olivo’s request eventually found the desk of U.S. Army Sgt. Deron Taffe at U.S. Central Command headquarters.

“I called Sgt. 1st Class Olivo and spoke with him to get his story,” said Taffe. “He said that he was trying to get his award for years. I assured him that this was his last stop because I would personally see that he is given what the Army owes him. Once a Soldier, always a Soldier.”

Taffe delivered. He obtained an award certificate, citation, and medal from U.S. Army Human Resources Command and made arrangements for a ceremony to take place prior to an Army all-hands call.

With Olivo’s family, including six grandchildren in attendance, Maj. Gen. Mitchell L. Kilgo, U.S. Central Command’s Army element commander, pinned the Bronze Star medal on Olivo. “It means a lot when we can present an award in the presence of one’s family,” said Kilgo. “We serve because our families allow us to serve. The Army is about people.”

“Let’s remember, the Army is a family, and it will always remain as one. Let them know you’re there. Let them know you care. I really appreciate each and every one of you attending this presentation,” said Olivo, after a spirited round of applause.

“It took almost a half a century, but it happened,” said Olivo. “Receiving this award in an auditorium full of fellow Soldiers made it all worthwhile.”