June 19, 2021 (Photo Credit: Miguel Dominic)
Yesterday, June 18, at a moving and emotional ceremony which took place at the East Idaho Veterans Center in Pocatello, Vietnam combat veteran Bill L. Klobas was awarded with the Purple Heart. The award, long overdue, was made possible thanks to the persistence and tenacity of his daughter, Casey Byington.
The ceremony began with a drive-by salute by the POW*MIA Awareness Association of Pocatello.
Following the motorcycle salute, Byington welcomed the guests to the ceremony. “I’d like to welcome everyone here today and thank you for taking the time to join us and bear witness to this incredible event,” she began.
Byington continued, “My father, LCpl. Bill Klobas, served this country honorably in 1968 and 1969 during the Vietnam War. He is a true American hero and I am honored to be alongside him today as he receives this award that is 52 years overdue.” Byington thanked her father’s comrades in arms, fellow Marines, who she said played an integral part in her father receiving this award.
“Dad, I am so proud of you,” she said. “This has not been an easy road to walk, recalling events that you’ve tried to erase from your mind, working with organizations that have felt like they are against us at every turn, and continuing to take steps forward each new day. You are and forever will be my hero. We are honored to be alongside you today as this award is bestowed upon you.”
Following Byington’s comments, Miguel Dominic, Commander of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, Snake River Plain Chapter 829 for SE Idaho, spoke.
Dominic, who received his Purple Heart after being wounded by an IED while serving as a gunner in Iraq in 2005 said, “I would like to start by saying thank you to everyone here today to pay your respects and honor Vietnam combat veteran Bill Klobas on this incredibly special occasion, even though it’s 52 years late. I would also like to the thank the Vet Center for the use of their building today, as well as send out a special thanks to the POW*MIA Riders in attendance.
Bill was wounded by friendly fire on April 26, 1969, while under enemy attack during Operation Oklahoma Hills in the Quang Nam Province. He suffered a traumatic brain injury — something that was not diagnosed in Vietnam during 1969 but is now recognized by the Marine Corps and the Veterans Administration as meeting the criteria for a Purple Heart Medal. Bill’s daughter, Casey Byington, was instrumental in finding eyewitness accounts for Bill from his comrades, as well as lost records and doctor notes documenting the events of that dreadful day. Her dedication has directly led to Bill’s combat wounds finally being recognized and to Bill being awarded the Purple Heart Medal several decades after his service and sacrifice.
Mr. Klobas, we sincerely thank you for your service, and although it has taken many years to receive this Purple Heart Medal, please know that your service to this country has never gone unrecognized.
Earning the title “Marine” has value that lasts a lifetime. Semper Fidelis is a Latin phrase meaning, “Always Faithful.” That very motto is a guiding principle and the foundation on which every Marine is made. Marines have always and will always stay true to that foundation through their actions. Once a Marine, always a Marine.
Again, we say thank you, Bill Klobas.
The Purple Heart Medal is a combat decoration no soldier seeks to receive. It is awarded to members of the armed forces of the U.S. who are wounded by an instrument of war in the hands of the enemy and posthumously to the next of kin in the name of those who are killed in action or die of wounds received in action.
The Purple Heart is one of the most recognized and respected medals awarded to members of the U.S. Armed Forces. Introduced as the “Badge of Military Merit” by General George Washington in 1782, the Purple Heart is also the nation’s oldest military award. In military terms, the award had “broken service,” as it was ignored for nearly 150 years. The medal’s plain inscription “FOR MILITARY MERIT” barely expresses its significance.
In January 1931, General Douglas MacArthur, Army Chief of Staff, resurrected the idea for the medal and on February 22, 1932 — the 200th anniversary of George Washington’s birth — the War Department (predecessor to the Department of Defense) announced the establishment of the Purple Heart Medal Award in General Order No. 3.
Later, during World War II, the medal was changed into a recognition of combat injuries and deaths. Over time, the military has further modified the award, adding different types of injuries and different types of combat to those already eligible. For instance, soldiers wounded in acts of terrorism now qualify for the Purple Heart, as do soldiers injured by friendly fire.
Pinning the Purple Heart Medal on Mr. Klobas today, will be Jim Van Osdol who was a Corporal in the Marine Corps and is also the Commandant for the Marine Corp League Detachment Steven Dee Merrill #698; he is also the Senior Officer in the Marine Corps League of Idaho.”
At the conclusion of Dominic’s remarks, Van Osdol and Byington made the award of the Purple Heart to Klobas, who then spoke briefly, thanking everyone in attendance, and especially his daughter, Casey.
As the ceremony concluded, Ms. Mimi Jones, representing Quilt of Valor, presented Klobas with a hand-made, patriotic quilt, after which Cody De Los Reyes, representing the Veterans Center, thanked those in attendance and directed the guests to a catered luncheon.
The Pocatello-Chubbuck staff joins all in attendance in thanking Bill Klobas for his service, and in recognizing his being awarded the Purple Heart.
To learn more about the Military Order of the Purple Heart, visit: Military Order of the Purple Heart