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Posthumous commendations awarded for service in Vietnam

By Staff | Feb 21, 2019

A Vietnam veteran who lost his life serving his country was recognized at last for his heroism and bravery at the Southwest Florida Military Museum & Library this week.

Army Sgt. Daniel J. Maloney’s family was presented the Bronze Star Medal, the Purple Heart, the Air Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Armed Forced Expeditionary Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal and Bronze Star Attachment, the Combat Infantrymen Badge, the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal and the Expert Infantryman Badge by Congressman Francis Rooney Tuesday afternoon in a moving ceremony.

Maloney’s son, Daniel Jr., was there along with his wife Ava and their two children, Daniel III and Alexa Rae.

Sgt. Maloney was wounded in action in Vietnam while serving with the 1st Calvary Division. He later succumbed to his wounds while undergoing treatment in Japan.

“What I really feel good about is that we’ve been able to help get these medals distributed to the family, it should have been done a long time ago,” said Rooney. “I’m proud of our team for working on this and getting it done for the family. I’m really thankful that we could recognize them for their father and grandfather’s sacrifice.”

The ceremony was led by Commander Jack Wagner of the Southwest Florida Military Order of the Purple Heart. Many other members were in attendance to show their support to the family and a fallen brother in arms.

“I know your father (and) grandfather is your hero but let me just say he is our hero also,” Wagner said to the family during the ceremony.

Maloney Jr. never met his father, as he was born just 17 days after his passing overseas. Despite that tragic fact, he feels a connection with his memorialized father, proud of the sacrifice he made in the name of freedom and hopes to instill the same values in his children today.

The day was an emotional one.

“It’s very difficult for me. It’s always been a difficult thing,” said Maloney Jr.

He acknowledged that military themed events still strike a chord with him and are difficult to watch, whether it be a movie or television show.

On this day, in the name of his father, Maloney Jr. did his best to endure the emotion and pain he felt for his children’s sake, so that they could better understand how their grandfather’s actions inspire so many.

“It was really important to me (to be here today) because I want my son to understand what his grandfather did for us,” he said. “I want him to understand that freedom isn’t free. Our military families make a lot of sacrifices so that we can have the lives we want to live.”

Sgt. Maloney was born in the Bronx in 1950 and enlisted into the U.S. Army, eventually serving in Fort Knox, Kentucky where he met the mother of Daniel Jr., Rebecca O’Brien, in Louisville.

While at Fort Knox he received orders of deployment to Vietnam where he would be wounded in action and pass away due to complications in the recovery process in 1970.

The honors bestowed on Sgt. Maloney are long overdue, though the family is relieved and joyful that the day did, in fact, come to fruition.

“I’ve worked on this for a year and a half and I’d gotten nowhere – and (Congressman Rooney) took care of it in three days for me and did a spectacular event on top of that which I did not expect at all,” said Eva Maloney.

She said the events leading up to the ceremony have had a profound effect on her children.

“It awoken my kids a lot,” she said. “It really made them realize what this is about. It’s not just that he served in Vietnam … it’s what he did, how far he got, all of the beautiful medals he received, all the hard work and all of the sacrifices he made. I think they’re realizing the sacrifices and (it’s) teaching them a lesson to understand all that and how much the veterans are so not taken care of.”

Rooney said that he will continue to support any military veterans who have not received the proper recognition.

“Whenever we hear of someone who hasn’t gotten their medals or something like that, we want to jump in and do our job to get that situation rectified. I’m proud of the team for getting it done,” he said.

A new Purple Heart Exhibit has just opened at the Southwest Military Museum & Library, where Sgt. Maloney’s picture is prominently displayed among many other Florida veterans who received the distinguished honor.

Wagner assured the Maloney family that the Military Order of the Purple Heart would always be there for them for whatever reason necessary.

“You’re father and grandfather has always been a part of our family,” he said. “And now you and your family are part of our family.”

The Southwest Florida Military Museum & Library is at 4820 Leonard St., Cape Coral.

-Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj