Brookhaven man receives war medals

Published 3:32 am Sunday, July 29, 2012

     Good things come to those who wait.

     A Brookhaven man who served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War has spent over 40 years wondering if he’d ever get the medals he deserved, but recently a package came in the mail that included the awards he earned while in Vietnam.

     Lonnie B. Dixon Jr., 63, received his Purple Heart, Bronze Star, Vietnam Service Medal and Good Conduct Award in mid-July.

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     Dixon served in Vietnam from April 1968 to April of 1969 as a mortar operator as part of the 11th Brigade in the Americal Division (also known as the 23rd Infantry Division). He was wounded during the war and should have received a Purple Heart, the military’s award for all who are wounded or killed in battle, but did not until recently.

     Dixon said he doesn’t know why it took him so long to receive the medals.

     “The only thing I can think of is that someone messed it up,” he said. “I do give (retired) Gen. Steven Melancon credit for helping me get my medals.”

     Despite the long wait, Dixon said he’s very happy to receive them.

     “I’m glad I got the medals,” he said. “It really means so much to me that I lived to see the day when I got them.”

     The Purple Heart came from a wound Dixon received on May 18, 1968, when a fragmentation grenade exploded near him and sent shrapnel into his shoulder.

     He was sent to an aid station to get treatment before getting sent back to his unit, but then an infection arose from the wound, which caused him to be sent back for more treatment.

     Dixon said what he remembers most from the military were the people he met.

     “I met some fine people while I was in the army,” he said.

     Another thing he recalls was the constant danger.

     “I saw a lot of death over there,” he said. “It seemed like there was not a moment when you were not afraid.”

     In addition to the danger, Dixon said at times soldiers would go 30 days without showering.

     “We were up in the mountains and hills,” he said. “We would often look for a waterfall and take a shower there when we could.”

     Dixon’s road to the military started while he was in college at Mississippi Valley State. He left college in early 1968 and moved to California where he decided to enlist in the Army.

     “I thought I’d get to choose my job once I joined, but instead I was sent to the infantry to be a mortar man,” he said.

     While in the Army, Dixon worked his way up to be a sergeant E5 before leaving in early 1969.

     After the war Dixon worked for Homelite in Brookhaven for 15 years and then moved on to work at Wal-Mart Distribution for 20 years while simultaneously working as a security guard at McLane Southern for about 10 years.

     Dixon will celebrate his 45th wedding anniversary with his wife Mary Dixon on Oct. 2. The couple has two children and 13 grandchildren.