Mission Finally Accomplished
Posted May 1, 2009 9:20 PM CST
By Jill Schachner Chanen
They’ve been called the greatest generation, but for some World War II veterans the military hasn’t been all that great about recognizing them.
As many of them reach old age, they want the recognition they are due. And thanks to a retired lawyer from Elberton, Ga., many are finally getting it.
Robert Lee Aston, a World War II Army Air Corps vet, has helped 63 of his fellow veterans obtain overdue medals. He’s also begun helping Vietnam War vets. “We get to thinking about, ‘Well, I should have had this or that,’ ” he says. “You want to clean up and get the record straight.”
About nine years ago, Aston wanted to set the record straight for himself. He felt he deserved a Distinguished Flying Cross for a particular mission and began navigating the military channels to get it. Once word spread about his success, he had a steady stream of vets asking for his assistance.
Obtaining a medal is largely a documentary process, he says. He must prove his clients’ gallantry and exposure to harm before a review board. Aston says the review board almost uniformly rejects all petitions, but an appeals process is available and he does whatever it takes to help his comrades get what they deserve.
In one instance he was able to find a 65-year-old interview from the BBC to support his client’s claim for a Distinguished Service Cross.
“I enjoy [helping them] immensely,” says Aston, who was also a belated recipient of a Silver Star, the nation’s third-highest medal for combat gallantry. “What I enjoy most is the thank yous and the gratitude.
They are so happy about it.”