On Friday, June 13, Congressman Derek Kilmer awarded U.S. Air Force veteran Alex Graham honorable citations for his performance during the Vietnam War.
The decorations included the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award, the National Defense of Service Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal and the Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon. The awards' ceremony took place at Graham's Key Peninsula home and was attended by members of his family and friends.
Graham employed his talents as a French speaker and various other technical skills while serving in Laos, Cambodia and Thailand during the conflict. His mission often required that he wear civilian clothing to blend into the local scenes. Much of his work was as a solo operator.
Thanks to the unique nature of his work, his military records were a jumble, and indeed, lost. He spent years reestablishing himself as having served.
During the course of this, he sought and received the effective aid of Kilmer who proudly, but with difficulty, pinned the decorations on Graham's civilian corduroy blazer. Kilmer humorously remarked that “Next time, let's not use corduroy, OK?”
Thanks to the intercession of Kilmer, Graham's efforts to attain recognition that he initiated in 1989 culminated in his being awarded 100 percent disability for afflictions endured during his service in Southeast Asia.
His long, frustrating experiences dealing with the Veterans Administration inspired Graham to write a book that serves as a primer to other veterans seeking successful settlements of their claims.Graham can be reached at (253) 884-3079.
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