Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Accepting Medals for Dad She Never Knew

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Accepting Medals for Dad She Never Knew

Article excerpt

Sgt. 1st Class Robert H. Wescott Jr. was killed in action on April 29, 1969. His daughter, now Christine Hamilton-Wescott, never got to meet him.

She didn't get to attend his funeral.

In fact, she didn't know he existed back then.

Wescott, a Lodi High School graduate and Little Ferry resident, died when his daughter was 7 years old. He was riding on a tank alongside other soldiers who were clearing out a Viet Cong- controlled bunker in Tay Ninh Province, South Vietnam. He was hit in the chest with a rocket-propelled grenade, Hamilton-Wescott said.

"The guys who saw it said he never knew what hit him," Hamilton- Wescott said. "I hope to God that's true."

On Tuesday, Hamilton-Wescott felt the enduring value and honor in that tragedy and sacrifice as she accepted three state military service medals for her father: the Korean Conflict Service Medal, the Vietnam War Service Medal and the Distinguished Service Medal -- presented during a ceremony organized by the state Veterans Affairs Department at Jersey Gardens mall in Elizabeth.

She walked up to the Rev. Alphonse Stephenson, a Catholic priest and the brigadier general commanding the New Jersey National Guard chaplains, to accept the awards, clutching a portrait of her father, in his olive-drab Army fatigues, neatly placed in a chrome frame.

The ceremony honored two other Bergen County veterans -- Gunner's Mate 3rd Class Anthony G. Galella, a World War II Navy veteran who crewed amphibious landing craft loaded with Marines in the Pacific Ocean, and Sgt. Xavier Reinoso, an Operation Iraqi Freedom Army veteran -- and 23 other New Jersey service members from Hudson, Essex and Union counties for their service in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.

"I was honored to receive this award," Reinoso, an Army Reservist in a quartermaster unit, said, referring to the state Distinguished Service Medal. "It really shows me how supportive the people are. When you are in Iraq, the only thing that can keep a guy going is knowing that the people support you. …

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