The Silver Star is the third-highest decoration that can be given to a member of the U.S. military. Dvorak received it for valor in the face of a superior enemy force in Vietnam 47 years earlier.
Dvorak’s former colleague, Col. Myron Anderson, recommended Dvorak for a medal after the two began looking in 2004 for what military honors might be available to other soldiers they served with during the war.
Anderson learned that Dvorak had a more eventful career in Vietnam than he’d let on, though he never received official recognition for his actions on Nov. 30, 1968. Wounded after a superior force pinned down his patrol, Dvorak, then 19, took over a heavy machine gun from the injured gunner and defended his troops until they were rescued.
Anderson submitted a request for the Bronze Star to the Defense Department with assistance from U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer. After reviewing his history, the department chose to award Dvorak the Silver Star.
“It was really a nice honor, but you don’t want to live in the past,” Dvorak said in an interview a few weeks after the ceremony. “And this is what happens. I just keep them in a box.” He displayed a small wooden chest full of military decorations, including a Bronze Star with a V for valor, various campaign ribbons, paratrooper and combat infantryman badges and two Purple Hearts. “I was actually wounded five times, but I only got two Purple Hearts because the other times were friendly fire,” he said.
After leaving the service in 1969, Dvorak made his way to California and worked as an L.A. County sheriff for 30 years. He and his wife, Patricia, built a house in Lakebay in 1992. Dvorak first visited the region when he was training at Fort Lewis in 1967. “I always liked the area,” he said.
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