Decades later, Vietnam veteran Bob Bass given medals by Sen. Tom Udall

Dan Schwartz The Daily Times
The Daily Times

FARMINGTON — More than four decades after fighting in Vietnam, Bob Bass got his medals Wednesday.

Tears welled in Bass' eyes during a ceremony at City Hall as U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., pinned nine medals to Bass's button-down shirt. Only one seat in the executive conference room was empty, and those who had assembled for the ceremony spoke in whispers.

"You said you couldn't believe this," Udall said when he was done.

He joked that the number of people in the crowded room was probably a fire code violation, "but we are all here," he said. "We love you."

Bass, 67, served in Vietnam from March 1969 to March 1970. He served in the Army from March 1968 to January 1971.

His awards include a Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm Unit Citation, Vietnam Service Medal with three bronze service stars, and Sharpshooter Badge with Auto Bar and Pistol Bar.

Bass said many veterans, like him, receive their medals decades after their service. The U.S. Department of Defense was not immediately able to provide statistics on the issue, and a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs spokesman said his department did not track it.

Bass was a specialist in the Army. When he got out, he worked for more than 36 years in law enforcement and the criminal justice system before he retired in 2011. He was a McKinley County sheriff and most recently a probation officer in San Juan County.

He told those in the small room Wednesday that he had called Udall's office because he wanted his medals to place in a display case for his grandson. He didn't expect a ceremony, and he never thought so many people would attend, he said.

Then he turned to Udall and spoke. "And senator," he said, "you just overwhelmed me today, God bless you."

Dan Schwartz covers government for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4606 and Follow him @dtdschwartz on Twitter.