Nearly forty-eight years after braving enemy fire to save his fellow soldiers, Edward Dvorak received the military's third-highest award for valor Wednesday from the Department of the Army's second-highest ranking civilian.

Army Undersecretary Patrick Murphy presented Dvorak with the honor at the Tacoma Narrows Bridge Veterans of Foreign Wars post, near Dvorak's home of Lakebay, Washington. Dvorak's delayed path to the award began in 2004, according to the Tacoma News Tribune, when he and fellow Vietnam vet Col. Myron Anderson began checking into whether some fellow soldiers may merit unawarded medals from their time in combat.

Anderson found just such a case: While a member of F Company, 51st Infantry Regiment, then-Sgt. Dvorak's long range patrol team had been hit by two rocket-propelled grenades during a Nov. 29, 1968, mission near the military base at Bien Hoa. Wounded in the attack, the 19-year-old Dvorak grabbed an M60 and "provided immediate effective and suppressive machine gun fire to protect the seriously wounded LRPs while still exposing himself to automatic weapons fire," according to his Silver Star citation.

Edward Dvorak received a Silver Star for his combat heroism in Vietnam nearly a half-century after the battle took place.

Photo Credit: Army

Sensing his team was about to be surrounded, Dvorak continued engaging enemy fighters to prevent them from organizing an attack. While still under enemy fire and refusing medical aid, he directed fire support from Army attack helicopters that eventually would lead the enemy to break off contact.

Anderson collected decades-old documents and conducted interviews with soldiers who'd been at the scene, the News Tribune reported -- including, reluctantly, Dvorak himself. 

Staffers with Rep. Derek Kilmer assisted with Dvorak's award paperwork, putting him in for a Bronze Star. The Army upgraded the award. 

"Ed put his own life on the line when other members of his team were in harm's way," Kilmer said at the ceremony. "Mr. Dvorak's story that day deserves to be heard."

Dvorak, who served for more than 30 years with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department after his time in the Army, said he was humbled by the award and told the audience that he was accepting the award "one-twelfth for me, eleven-twelfths for the rest of the team."

Kevin Lilley is the features editor of Military Times.

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