‘Better late than never’

Published 2:42 pm Saturday, July 21, 2012

Daily Star photo/KATIE ROHMAN Chris Herman, middle, contacted the office of U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, left, about a matter when they asked if her father, Gordon Oeming, had received his medals from his service in Vietnam. Some of the medals were awarded to Oeming Saturday.

“‘Better late than never,’ they say,” Capt. Gordon Oeming remarked upon receiving several medals for his service in the Vietnam War — 37 years later.

The Silverbrook Manor resident was honored in a ceremony Saturday morning at the Niles nursing home. U.S. Rep. Fred Upton presented Oeming with the medals.

Called to duty

Born in Eau Claire, Wis., Oeming was the oldest of three boys — all served in Vietnam. He enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and served from 1965 to 1968. He faced combat and was honorably discharged.

Less than a year later, he enlisted to serve in the U.S. Army, where he returned to Vietnam for airborne communications.

He flew a B-29, T-41, Cessna 172 and an L-50 beechcraft twin engine, his favorite plane. Oeming survived three helicopter crashes.

He returned to the military in 1974 to enlist in the U.S. Army Reserves, and he served until 1992.

“This is something that we’ve done a lot,” Upton said of awarding overdue medals to veterans.

“When the war was done for him … he was ready to come home,” Upton said. “He had just done the job he was asked to do. Like so many who served, they didn’t talk a lot about what they did.”

Service above self

Oeming’s daughter, Christina Herman, of Edwardsburg, had called Upton’s office about an unrelated matter, and a staffer asked if her father was acknowledged for his service. That started the process for him to receive the medals.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Oeming said at the ceremony.

“Here you go dad,” Herman said. “You’ve been deserving of this for a long time.

“I was raised by a superhero in my mind,” she said.

Herman recalled how her father was spit on when he returned from Vietnam.

“That was not a good page in American history,” Upton said.

“We are a free nation because of our brave,” he said. “We are the nation we are because of the people who serve.”

Upton presented Oeming with the Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm device, the U.S. Army Good Conduct Medal, the Meritorious Unit Commendation, expert badges for rifle and pistol and the Army Aviator badge.

Oeming is also due to receive the U.S. Air Force Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal and the Vietnam Service Medal.

After retirement, Oeming worked for City Bank Corp. for seven years as a research analyst, then for three years in a security role for the Monarch Co. in Sacramento. He came to Silverbrook Manor in 2011.