(WBKW release) Boatswain's Mate, Third Class Daniel Little is proud of his decision to volunteer for service in the U.S. Navy, and considers the medals he earned as chapters in a story that he will never forget.
During a special meeting at Heritage Aflame on Friday, Senator Catharine Young presented Petty Officer Little with the United States Navy "E" Ribbon, United States Navy Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal with four bronze service stars, New York State Medal for Merit, and the New York State Conspicuous Service Star.
"There is no greater honor than to present our veterans with long-overdue medals, which they earned by serving our country. Petty Officer Little was the first in his family to join the military, and he came to the decision on his own. I am inspired by his conviction, dedication and courage, as I am grateful for the opportunity to recognize Petty Officer Little," said Senator Young.
Petty Officer Little added, "I'm awestruck. You can't put a price tag on the experiences I've had and the places I've been around the world. I considered it a privilege to serve. I don't know what the medals and ribbons mean to others, but they aren't just pieces of metal. To me they are a storybook with each telling a chapter of a time as a sailor on a Navy ship. I am looking forward to telling my grandchildren about them."
Petty Officer Little enlisted in the U.S. Navy after graduating from Portville High School in 1968. After completing basic training at Naval Station Great Lakes in Illinois, he spent three years and eight months serving on the USS Tulare, which, at the time, was the fastest attack cargo ship in the world.
The USS Tulare made numerous trips to Vietnam from San Diego. During Petty Officer Little's time on the Tulare, he assisted in a fleet resupply group to Vietnam, conducted regular deployments to Vietnam, and participated in combat operations, including "Brave Amanda," a three and a half week mission in Vietnamese waters involving amphibious units.
"At 19 or 20 years old, I was in charge of 20 men, a cargo hold, a crane, and the color guard when dignitaries were on board. I was also one of the four people who steered the ship during combat operations. When I think of the things I was trained to do and in charge of - the general aspects of military life - it gave me confidence," Petty Officer Little said.
One special mission that Petty Officer Little recalled was at Christmastime, when Naval troops loaded the cargo hold with thousands of presents and delivered them to the Marine base in DaNang (Vietnam) so those serving in the area could have a nice Christmas.
Petty Officer Little said he is proud of all that he and the men on his ship accomplished, and he hopes his story helps other veterans.
"One of the biggest gratitudes I feel is when you're standing in line somewhere and someone walks up to you and says, 'thank you for your service.' I don't think people realize how much that means. It's awesome. Sometimes it's beyond words," Petty Officer Little said.
"I hope this story is an encouragement to others in realizing that people really care. People may not agree with the war, but appreciate what we did. I am especially proud that the Lord was good enough to let me be a volunteer when that wasn't the thing to do. I never regretted it," he added.
Petty Officer Little and his wife Diane married just months before Petty Officer Little's discharge from the Navy. They have two sons, Nickolas (wife, Aprille) and Nathaniel (wife, CaSandra), as well as seven grandchildren. His nephew, Major Martin DeBock, who serves in the U.S. Army, also attended Friday's ceremony.
"This is a great honor for my uncle. It's a long time coming. I am looking forward to seeing my uncle finally able to receive the recognition, knowing that he was a part of something. I felt honored that he wanted me to come down for it. It's nice to come home and be there for him," Major DeBock said.
Following his discharge, Petty Officer Little obtained associates degrees in Accounting and Computer Technology from Olean Business Institute. He also studied Theology through Moody Bible Institute and earned a four-year Home Studies degree. He worked for several area companies, including Market Basket and Industrial Patterns, both of Bolivar, and Clark Brothers, which became Dresser-Clark, in Olean.
Petty Officer Little retired from Dresser-Clark after 20 years. He now enjoys time with his grandchildren, traveling and serving as the president of the Four Seas Senior Citizens of Richburg. In August, Petty Officer Little will attend his first reunion for the USS Tulare in Memphis.
"This is the ship's third reunion, but my first. I've been in contact with several of the people I served with, and I'm looking forward to reconnecting. I'm also excited about the ceremony today because there are veterans coming and I'm going to recognize them too. I want them to be honored. Their service means as much as mine," Petty Officer Little said.
The United States Navy "E" Ribbon "denotes permanent duty on ships or in squadrons that won the Battle Efficiency competitions after July 1, 1974."
Senator Young also presented Petty Officer Little with the United States Navy Good Conduct Medal Good Conduct Medal, which is awarded to any enlisted member of the United States military who completes three consecutive years of service, honorably and faithfully. The Air Force Good Conduct Medal was authorized by Congress on July 6, 1960, but not created until June 1, 1963.
Petty Officer Little received the National Defense Service Medal. This honor is given to individuals who served in the Armed Forces for any period any period after June 26, 1950 to July 28, 1954, after December 31, 1960 and before August 15, 1974 or after August 1, 1990 and before December 1, 1995.
The Vietnam Service Medal with Four Bronze Service Stars is presented to military personnel who served more than 30 consecutive days, or 60 non-consecutive days, in the Republic of Vietnam between the dates of November 15, 1961, and March 28, 1973, and from April 29, 1975, to April 30, 1975 . Service members who supported Vietnam operations from another country (such as Thailand), the Vietnam Service Medal may be authorized if such activity was in direct support of Vietnam combat operations and if such combat support exceeded 30 -60 days.
Service members eligible for the Republic of Vietnam Meritorious Unit Citation with Palm include units cited for service in military operations in support of the government of South Vietnam. The actions cited are for the same services that would have resulted in the award of a Valorous Unit Citation by the Army or a Navy Unit Citation.
Also included in the medals received by Petty Officer Little was the New York State Medal for Merit. This distinction is given to a current New York State citizen or person who was a New York State citizen while serving on federal active duty. It can also be awarded to a non-New York State citizen who served with the state's organized militia or units of the militia while on federal active duty for purposes other than training. The recipient's service must have been honorable, and he or she must have earned a valor, achievement, commendation, or meritorious service decoration of a lesser degree than required for the award of the Conspicuous Service Cross.
The New York State Conspicuous Service Star may be awarded to any current New York State citizen or person who was a New York State citizen while serving on federal active duty; whose entire service was honorable and who were recipients of a unit commendations arising from combat while serving in the United States Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard.