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Vietnam Vets give Silver Star to sister of late comrade

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Holzhauer joined the Marines from Chicago, but lives in Arkansas and said he was a close friend of Sgt. Burton while they were in Vietnam.


Butler, whose husband Charles passed away in January 2011, came to visit and see where Sgt. Burton grew up and lived. She said Butler, who was from Philadelphia, Penn., was Sgt. Burtons best friend during the war.


It was just a story of how a city boy from Philadelphia and a country boy became friends, she said.


Ricci, who was a platoon commander in Sgt. Burtons battalion, said he was good friends with the men who served under his command. Ricci said he never allowed his men to do anything that he wouldnt do himself.


Each night, Ricci would go around to all of his soldiers foxholes and speak with them, joke and make sure everyone was OK. They created a tight-knit camaraderie and always looked after one another.


I was wounded just two days before Sgt. Burton was killed, Ricci explained, noting that it was many years after the war before he knew who among them had survived.


Last year, the group held a reunion in Riccis hometown of Manasquan, N.J. He held a picture taken of the platoon in Vietnam, which he said he keeps by his coffee maker, not in a frame.


He refused to put the picture in a frame, to become a piece of art, or history. Its more personal, raw and genuine.


We were very close in Vietnam, he said. This way, I get to see them every day, when I wake up and make coffee I see them, all day, I see them.


Alexander said the men enjoy visiting the hometowns of their friends who served alongside them. They can see how and where they grew up, meet their families and share memories.


Its closure for some, Alexander said. They wanted to see where John came from.


She pointed out the men who her brother fought beside, and who told her how her brother refused to leave their side when he was supposed to return home. Dreger said that Sgt. Burton was ordered to return to a base away from the front lines, but said he would leave after his unit was at the front the next day. When they reached their destination, the sergeant wouldnt leave his friends.


I didnt know that until recently, Alexander said.


Standing in front of the memorial, Dreger presented Alexander with a Silver Star in honor of Sgt. Burton. He explained at the time of her brothers death, his wife received his posthumously awarded medals.


When we were at her house, I noticed Johns picture, but I didnt see the Silver Star, so we got you this, for him, Dreger said.


Staff Writer Patrick Hall may be contacted at phall@wilsonpost.com.


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