The U.S. Army has awarded a Bronze Star for valor to a 79-year-old veteran of the 82nd Airborne Division for his bravery during Operation Power Pack in the Dominican Republic in 1965.
William Gaschler was serving as a sniper team leader with Company A, 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, when his unit was deployed to the Dominican Republic to restore order after civil war broke out.
Gaschler and his team were on a rooftop in the heart of Santo Domingo when rebel forces fired on their position, wounding two of his fellow paratroopers.
"If this man bleeds out, he's going to die," William Gaschler said in a recent Army news release, recalling the events of May 13, 1965. "I called for a medic, but under the machine-gun fire, the medic could not advance to our position."
Gaschler directed a wounded Emmanuel Block to move to safety and risked his own life to move Alan Isaacson out of harm's way, according to the release.
"I picked him up and carried him off the rooftop under intense machine-gun fire and got him to safety," Gaschler said.
Both wounded paratroopers were stabilized and evacuated. Isaacson sustained serious wounds to the neck and eyes, permanently losing his sight.
Gaschler's team fought off the rebel attack and helped restore order so democratic elections could be held.
Fifty-three years later, Gaschler, a resident of Sanford, North Carolina, received the Bronze Star Medal with "V" device for his heroic actions that day.
"Today, we gather to recognize William Gaschler and his actions ... actions that have been overlooked for more than five decades," Maj. Gen. Michael Kurilla, commander of the 82nd Airborne, said during a July 28 awards ceremony at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
Kurilla, who presented the award, said the ceremony shone a light on a darkened corner of the paratrooper legacy and celebrated the thousands who fought in the Dominican Republic, according to the release.
After Gaschler and his fellow paratroopers returned from the Dominican Republic, Operation Power Pack was soon overshadowed by the Vietnam War.
"Today, we make things right," said Kurilla, as he addressed family, friends and many who made the event possible. "Today, William Gaschler serves as a stand-in for the more than 10,000 [troops who served in the Dominican Republic]. Today, in recognizing him, we recognize them."
Gaschler said receiving the medal made him "feel really great."
"I always felt like I earned it and deserved it, but I thought that I would have to go in my grave without it," he said.
Gaschler's daughter Gunda Gaschler Bush worked with the Veterans' Legacy Foundation to ensure her father was recognized for his heroism, the release states.
Bush said she heard her father's story for the first time in 2014, recalling that he told her, "I don't want to die before I get my medal."
"My dad risked his own life to save him," she said. "Isaacson would certainly have died. We are so grateful my father was recognized while he was still alive."
-- Matthew Cox can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.