Gardnerville man finally gets 5th Purple Heart after 26 years |

Gardnerville man finally gets 5th Purple Heart after 26 years

by Merrie Leininger

Twenty-six years ago Ron Garside was sent home from Vietnam with an injured ankle, but without a Purple Heart.

A few months ago Garside received his fifth Purple Heart in the mail.

Garside said when he was shot in the ankle by North Vietnamese soldiers during a night-time attack, he was sent to Okinawa and then San Fransisco where he got his medical discharge papers, but not his medal.

For years, Garside did not worry too much about it. After all, he already had a total of four Purple Hearts, two Bronze Stars, two Air Medals, the Combat Infantryman’s Badge and a Vietnam Gallantry Cross after two tours between 1967 and 1971.

However, in 1995, he decided to put in a request to find out what happened to his last Purple Heart.

“It wasn’t a big deal. All that time I wondered where it was in the process. Finally, in 1995, I put in a question as to what the situation was,” he said. “It happens all the time. That’s just the way the military works.”

Congressman Jim Gibbons, R-Nevada, will present the award to Garside Jan. 13 in Reno.

The presentation is important for him, he said, because while he was in Vietnam, all his awards were just handed to him or pinned on his pillow while he was still in the hospital recovering.

“It will be the first time I have officially been given any of my awards,” he said.

– In country. Garside was 21 years old when he was drafted in July 1967 and went to Vietnam as a member of the 2/16 Infantry Rangers, 1st Division.

During that one-year tour, he was injured three times by grenade or mortar round shrapnel. Each time he was sent to the hospital for a few weeks to recover and then sent back to the front lines.

He received the Vietnam Gallantry Cross after a firefight during the 1968 Tet offensive in which his division was fighting alongside the Army of the Republic of Vietnam. A Vietnamese soldier was injured and Garside pulled him to safety and carried him to a medic.

He went home in July 1968 and that is when he married his wife, Pamela.

In 1970, he returned with the 1/501st Airborne Division.

He said the danger involved didn’t play a factor in his decision to return to one of the bloodiest wars in American history.

“I thought there was something I could personally do to help the Vietnam people. I saw all the damage the Communists were doing and I felt we were doing something important,” he said. “I also was mad at the newspapers and the people who were anti-war when I had actually seen what they were doing over there.”

The fourth time he was injured, a person walking behind him stepped on a mine and he was hit with shrapnel on the back of the head, arms and on his back.

About six months later, on July 12, 1971, his division was set up for the night in the jungle.

They sat in a circle with their backs to each other, what he called a “defensive perimeter,” when they were attacked by the Viet Cong.

He was shot in the left ankle, but the troops were surrounded and he had to keep fighting until daylight, when helicopters were able to come in.

His ankle was so severely injured he was sent home, and he still walks with a cane.

– Family. Garside has lived in the Johnson Lane area for about 17 years with his wife and three children. His children are grown now and he had seven grandchildren. Russell Garside, 28, still lives in Gardnerville. Greg Garside, 26, is a Green Beret in the Special Forces and stationed at Fort Bragg in South Carolina.

Rebecca Clow, 25, also lives in Gardnerville, and said she is glad her father is finally getting the recognition he deserves.

“A lot of Vietnam vets didn’t get the credibility they deserved,” she said. “He’s not the type of person who is outgoing at first, but when someone comes to him and says, ‘I want to award this to you personally,’ he’s glad they see the importance in it. I think he’s greatly appreciative of it.”

His daughter said she is very proud of the heroic acts her father performed in Vietnam and during his 17 years in law enforcement after being discharged.

“Even after the war he still wanted to continue law enforcement and I always thought he did a brave job at that. He was always willing to risk his life for others,” she said.

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