PJ Star: Medal presentation ‘long time in the making’ for Peoria veteran
U.S. Rep. Schock to present medals to man who served in Egypt during Iran hostage crisis
By ANDY KRAVETZ (email@example.com)
Posted Sep 22, 2013 @ 04:18 PM
PEORIA - Ben Percy wants to be clear: He’s not a hero, but he’s proud of his service to his nation and hopes that will continue thanks to efforts by his local congressman.
On Monday, U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Peoria, will present Percy with several medals, including the Humanitarian Service medal, for his deployment to Egypt during Operation Eagle Claw, the failed attempt in 1980 to rescue 52 American hostages seized by revolutionary forces in Iran.
The medals, Percy hopes, will help him with his desire to “continue serving his country” after his retirement from the Illinois State Police. When he tried to apply for jobs, he found his deployment for Eagle Claw was classified and not included in his records. Schock’s office helped to change that and now he also is being presented with the Air Force Good Conduct medal, the Basic Security Police Qualification badge and the longevity service ribbon.
“This ceremony has been a long time in the making for a well-deserved recognition of Benny Percy’s heroic service to our country,” Schock said. “For over three decades since his retirement from the Air Force, the story, and significance, of his contributions, including his involvement in the mission to rescue the 52 Americans during the Iran hostage crisis, have mostly been kept a secret.
“So to have the chance to present him the medals he rightfully deserves after all these years is a unique moment for our community to celebrate and honor the many sacrifices Benny Percy has made on our behalf.”
Eagle Claw ended in the deaths of eight GIs and public humiliation for the Carter administration, but it had far-reaching implications on the nation’s military as the service branches’ special operations groups began working closer together and restructured their training.
Percy, 54, of Peoria wasn’t a special ops guy. He wasn’t at the Desert One site where a helicopter crashed into a transport plane, and he wasn’t injured. He was, however, stationed at Wadi Kena, Egypt, or Site Alpha, where he helped to protect the staging area used for the rescue mission.
There was nothing in his records that indicated he was there, but he managed to save a few papers of his own to prove what he had done. Others, buddies of his, didn’t.
“And there is nothing to show they were there,” he said. “The Air Force can’t change it as they don’t have any way to show what they did.”
It matters in this War on Terror era, when veterans are given a leg up on jobs within the federal government, provided they have enough “points.” Such points can come from time in the service, deployments and awards.
His orders, until recently, were classified, and so he never received awards that others in his unit received after leaving the service in 1981. That became a factor after he retired from the state police last year after 27 years, the last eight at the Par-A-Dice investigating allegations at the casino, and began looking within the federal government for a way to continue serving his country.
Percy had tried on his own to have his records changed but was denied by the Air Force.
“I am comfortable with recognition for the efforts of Congressman Schock and Nate Hurn for standing by a veteran’s request and their guidance through that process of record review by the (Air Force Board of Review),” he said. “And I want to encourage other veterans in need of records assistance to ask for help through Congressman Schock’s office.”
Andy Kravetz can be reached at 686-3283 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @andykravetz or read his military blog, information, on pjstar.com.