Viet Nam veteran gets replacement medals

Lu Ann Krengle/Correspondent
Rocky Svoboda (right) and his friend, Jack Williams, were both wounded at the same time with the same mortar in Vietnam.

Sunday, April 19 may have been a miserable, rainy and cold day outside but inside Portside Bar and Grill in New Boston it was warm and jovial and at times quite emotional.

It was the setting of a surprise party for Rocky Svoboda from New Boston. He was presented with replacement medals from his service in Vietnam. Bill Brown and Jerry Stineman were proud to present him the three Purple Hearts and one Bronze Star that had been stolen in a robbery at his home in Illinois City in the early 1980s.

Ellen Wienke and Wes Schmeltzer, co-owners of Portside, heard about Svoboda's loss and put the ball in motion to get replacements for the stolen medals. They contacted Jerry Stineman, a member of the Mercer County VFW in Aledo, to ask how to get this accomplished. He talked to Bill Brown and they then talked to Roger McCreight in mid January 2009 and were able to order the medals through the VFW.

At first they thought he had lost only a Purple Heart but after talking with Rocky's mother, June Stebel of Illinois City, they learned he had three Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star. They had his DD-214 (military service record) and were able to obtain all four medals.

Stebel said it was the saddest day of her and her husband's life when Rocky left for the service. She said the battle he was in that earned him his second Purple Heart they actually saw a news report about. She had remarked that she thought Rocky was near there. She got quite emotional while talking about the fact that 43 soldiers went into that battle and only four returned.

Jack Williams from Des Moines was in attendance and recounted how he and Rocky met in Okinawa and later were reunited in Dong Ha. They went into a battle there June 8, 1968 and fought side-by-side, which got them both wounded from the same mortar shell. That was Rocky's third Purple Heart and time to come home. He was also presented with the Bronze Star (The Medal of Honor for valor, above and beyond.)

Rocky started his training at Great Lakes in 1967. He was a Navy Corpsman but went to Vietnam with the 2/4 Battalion of the Marines as a medic.

Jerry Stineman recounted during the presentation that he was also in Vietnam and when he came home he attended a party at Rocky's house. He had been wounded and had a lot of shrapnel in his arm, shoulder and leg. He said his leg was really hurting so Rocky took him in another room to take a look at it. He still had his medical bag from the war so he offered to lance the place on his leg.

After he removed a piece of shrapnel, Stineman said it never hurt again. Stineman said, " that is why he has the Bronze Star because he is always going above and beyond."

Rocky, 60, has four sisters and one brother, Jess, Kelly, Linda, Diana and Karen. He also has three sons, Paul, Robert and Richard, two of which were on hand to see their father get his new medals. His wife, Allie, passed away four years ago.

When asked what he does for a living his son Paul said, "he is retired, twice."