Richard “Dick” Allen, in top photo and in wartime snap-shot above, will be re-awarded medals and decorations he earned while serving in Vietnam including the Silver Star, the Army Commendation Medal and a Combat Infantryman Badge during a ceremony today in Medford. - Bob Pennell


Richard "Dick" Allen can tell you precisely what happened that day 41 years and half a world away.

What the Medford resident can't tell you is exactly why he took the bold action that earned him a Silver Star for courage under fire.

"I've been asking myself that for years," said Allen, 61, an Army veteran who served with the 101st Airborne Division. "I'm still not sure what caused me to do it.

"I was only 19 at the time," he added. "We were all pinned down behind a rock wall at the time. I guess I just saw a way to get us out of there."

Those memories will be on his mind this morning when the medals the draftee earned in the Army are re-awarded during an 8:30 a.m. public ceremony at the Jackson County Veterans Service Office, 2860 State St., Medford.

Similar ceremonies are held every quarter for veterans (or their widows) whose medals were lost, never awarded or need replacement because of deterioration over the years. Allen had applied to have his medals replaced because of their deteriorated conditions.

"It's one of my favorite things to do," said Marty Kimmel of the veterans service office. "We present the medals and thank them for their service."

In addition to the Silver Star, Allen will receive the Army Commendation Medal with oak leaf cluster with letter "V" device, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal and Bronze Star attachment, Combat Infantryman Badge, Republic of Vietnam Campaign ribbon with device and a Parachutist Badge.

His courage under fire wasn't unique to his military service. Allen, who retired in 2002 as a Jackson County sheriff's deputy after 24 years of service, received the Oregon Peace Officers Association Medal of Honor for heroism after dragging a wounded deputy to safety in 1989. The deputy, who was shot while trying to arrest a parolee suspected of robbery, also was awarded the Medal of Honor by the association.

Allen was drafted as an 18-year-old in San Mateo, Calif., in 1966. Knowing he was going to be sent to war, he volunteered for the elite airborne unit.

He arrived in what was then war-torn South Vietnam in March 1967. Barely two months in country, he charged a Viet Cong position after coming under fire while walking point during a patrol near Duc Pho, eliminating the threat to his unit. For that, he received the Army Commendation Medal for valorous action.

When a platoon became pinned down by enemy fire on Aug. 25, 1967, near the village of Chu Lai during Operation Benton, Spec. 4 Allen's platoon was deployed to rescue the men. The pinned-down platoon was led by Lt. Jim Peak, now the head of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Allen's platoon came under fire as it tried to reach the other platoon.

"We were pinned down behind this rock wall," he recalled. "We were receiving heavy enemy fire from a tree line about 50 meters away across an open field."

With his unit unable to move forward, Allen stripped off his heavy gear, grabbed two grenades and told the two machine gunners at each end of the rock wall to provide cover fire. He sprinted across the field and threw the grenades, silencing the enemy positions.

Unfortunately, several American soldiers were killed that day, including a helicopter pilot whose aircraft crashed while trying to pick up Allen's unit.

"It was a difficult time," he said. "Some good times, some not so good. Some of it haunts you. For years I couldn't talk about what happened."

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or e-mail him at

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