Specialist 4th Class Denton was just fulfilling his military obligation.
The first time he was wounded, he was grazed by a bullet when on patrol. After a week’s recovery, he was back out there.
Then, during a jungle search-and-destroy mission in September 1966, his unit found itself battling a North Vietnamese brigade that outnumbered the Americans 3 to 1.
“We got caught in an ambush,” Denton told the Press-Republican in an earlier interview. “They (the Vietcong) were hidden in the trees. We couldn’t see them but knew where the firing was coming from.
“There was fighting all around us.”
AIR MEDAL, TOO
Shot in the right shoulder, he lay there for an hour and a half as sniper fire and mortar rounds hit all around. At last, a chopper was able to pick him up and take him to a field hospital.
That’s where Westmoreland presented him and other wounded soldiers there with Purple Hearts.
Denton was also honored with the Air Medal for his participation in 25 aerial missions over hostile ground.
His high-school diploma helped remove the lingering sting from the rebuff he and others in the military experienced upon their return home from Vietnam.
“When I got back, people didn’t want anything to do with us because we went to Vietnam,” he said earlier.
“It wasn’t our fault about the war and being sent there.”
In his graduation address, ELCS Superintendent Scott Osborne said, “Tonight, in conjunction with the 75th anniversary of graduation here in Elizabethtown-Lewis, we’re honored to award an official ELCS high-school diploma through Operation Recognition to Harry R. Denton of New Russia, New York.
“Harry proudly resides in New Russia with his lovely wife, Cecile, of 45 years. Many of us have seen Mr. Denton here at school working as a substitute employee from time to time.