At the Drake Building in St. Paul last Friday, March 25, 2011, from left: U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-MN); Dai Vinh, Bronze Star recipient; Carol Tran, spouse; Mike Vinh and Phuc Vinh, sons; and granddaughter Kayla in front.
WASHINGTON, D.C. (Oct. 12, 2011) — U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) on Thursday met with Dai Vinh, a Vietnamese-American war hero from Richfield to present him with his long-lost Bronze Star Medal.
Dai Vinh served as a Captain in the Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces. He was awarded the Bronz Star medal for saving several American lives in a mortar attack in 1968. However, his medal was lost in transit when Vinh moved to Minnesota after the United States withdrew from Vietnam in 1975.
Sen. Franken helped to recover earlier this year. Dai Vinh had contacted Franken’s office and his staff worked with the National Personnel Records Center in Washington, D.C. to replace the medal. Franken presented the medal to Dai Vinh last March in his Drake Building offices in St. Paul.
“The United States is forever grateful for Mr. Vinh’s heroic actions over 40 years ago that saved American lives and I was humbled to present him with his lost Bronze Star earlier this year,” said Sen. Franken. “Today I had the honor to thank him again for his bravery and to meet with his wonderful family at my office in Washington.”
Accompanying Dai Vinh to the meeting with Franken were his wife, Carol; his two sons, Michael and Phuc; and his granddaughter, Ashley, who is Phuc’s daughter. This same group was at the Minnesota presentation in March.
Franken noted at the presentation that officers from the other federal uniformed services are eligible to receive the Bronze Star if they are militarized or detailed to serve with a service branch of the armed forces. Captain Vinh was charged with the task of protecting four U.S. military advisors, the term given to U.S. advisors attached to his RVA unit.
In this instance Tran was credited with taking action that resulted in likely saving the lives of the three American officers and with motivating his men to repel a superior number of the enemy.
The Bronze Star Medal is a United States Armed Forces individual military decoration that when awarded for bravery is the fourth-highest combat award. It is also awarded for acts of merit or meritorious service where it ranks ninth in military decorations.
Vinh entered the military in Vietnam at 18 and war was all he knew until he left for America in 1975. His medal recommendation letter from 1968 read that it was for “courage and leadership” in turning back a ferocious North Vietnamese attack that endangered American military officers and soldiers.
It was on Nov. 14, 1968, when Cpt. Dai Vinh led a patrol and his platoon encountered a large number of communist soldiers. They were pinned down and the enemy was advancing. He was told to wait for reinforcements but he felt it would be too late until they arrived.
Tran took it upon himself to move forward and effectively neutralized an enemy advance long enough to motivate his soldiers to follow and a half-hour battle ensued – and ending with the enemy withdrawal. He noted that when the battle was over the U.S. advisors said to him that the actions likely saved their lives, and learned later that he was recommended for the Bronze Star.
As far as he knew, Tran said the award was approved but the War went on and by 1975 no one was thinking about awards and ceremonies. When Saigon fell in April, Tran was more concerned about getting his family out of the country as he would likely be jailed or executed and they would also suffer as the family of an RVA officer.
According to his son’s, Phuc and Mike, the family first made their way to the Philippines and Guam, and then to Arkansas before being sponsored by the Lutheran Church to Minnesota. Dai Vinh became a U.S. citizen in 1980 and raised his family in Apple Valley and then settled in Richfield where he continues to run a small business.
Both of his sons are college educated and successful in corporate America.
Dai Vinh said last March that the past 35 years in America has shown to him that this is a great and free democracy. He said practice is not always perfect and that means arguing is the freedom he fought for in Vietnam.