In June of 1968, Frank Spink was a 22 year old sergeant serving in the Army during the Vietnam War. His platoon was sleeping when Spink spotted enemy forces approaching quickly. He was able to wake his platoon leader and despite coming under rocket and grenade fire, the men were able to take action that ultimately saved many of their lives.
Spink lost his right arm in the attack but kept firing with his left arm until he passed out from his injuries. Eventually Spink made the trip back to the States and spent time at Walter Reed Army Medical Center being treated for his injuries before returning home to Indiana. He was awarded the Purple Heart for his bravery. Spink just saw his actions as part of what was expected him and never gave the incident much more thought.
The same was of true of his platoon leader, second lieutenant John McHenry. McHenry suffered a concussion in the attack. He credits Spink with saving the lives of the men in that platoon. If it weren’t for those few seconds, McHenry say the superior firepower the enemy had would have reduced the platoon to toast.
It wasn’t until a few years ago that McHenry began to talk about the events of that night. He was concerned about whether or not the men under his leadership had been recognized for their efforts. He felt haunted knowing that recognition may have eluded the brave men of his platoon.
Four years ago he was prompted to start digging into the matter by checking records kept at the National Archives in College Park, Md. It was there he discovered an order to award the Silver Star to Spink. The order, nearly lost forever, was mistakenly overlooked due to a mix up in the number that was used to identify Spink.
Spink was stunned when McHenry called him with the news. With the help of Rep. Todd Rokita, R-Ind., the oversight was corrected quickly. Spink was awarded his long overdue medal Wednesday at a ceremony held at the Indiana National Guard headquarters. In attendance were many local veterans. Spink asked that all the Vietnam veterans stand and be recognized. He said it was as much their day as it was his.