After nearly 50 years, a Vietnam veteran from Baldwin on Thursday was formally recognized with a Purple Heart.
“It just kind of festered,” Maloy “Ole” Monicken Jr. said of the years that went by without such recognition.
“I’m just glad to finally be acknowledged,” he said.
Monicken’s daughters, Jessica Monicken Hanson and Katie Monicken Kuznacic, were largely responsible for their father’s formal recognition.
“He just turned 70 and we just wanted to make what happened right. This is something that has been bothering him,” Monicken Hanson said.
“Forty-eight years later, he finally gets the moment he deserves,” Monicken Kuznacic said.
“This has been such an important day for my family,” Monicken Kuznacic said.
During a ceremony at VFW Post 305 in Eau Claire, Monicken was formally presented with the Purple Heart and Good Conduct medals by U.S Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis.
Monicken’s daughters contacted Baldwin to see if she would be interested in arranging and being a part of a formal ceremony for their father.
“It was kind of a shot in the dark,” Monicken Kuznacic said.
Baldwin accepted the invitation, and Monicken appreciated his daughters’ efforts.
“I couldn’t be more proud of them,” Monicken said.
Baldwin said she was honored to formally present the medals to Monicken.
“The Purple Heart recognizes service and sacrifice. It’s a sacred honor,” she said.
“Ole’s bravery and service will never be forgotten,” Baldwin said. “This pays tribute to him. We must never forget the sacrifice he made, other veterans made and active military members are now making.”
State Sen. Patty Schachtner, D-Somerset, who has known the Monicken family for many years, also presented Monicken with a certificate of recognition from the Wisconsin state Senate.
“I cannot believe for as long as we have known each other, I didn’t know his story,” Schachtner said of Monicken.
Here’s his story:
Monicken was born in Baldwin on April 15, 1949, the son of Maloy and Betty Monicken.
Monicken was drafted into the Army in April 1969 at the age of 19 and completed basic training at Fort Campbell, Ky.
Monicken completed additional training at Fort Carson, Colo., and in November 1969 Spc.5 Monicken was deployed to Phu Loi in South Vietnam with the 20th Engineering Battalion under the 34th Engineering Group, where he served 11 months during the war.
In July 1970, Monicken was escorting his captain as a driver on a routine perimeter mission.
Monicken had recently lined his vehicle floor with fresh sandbags to help cushion the vehicle from mine explosions.
The two soldiers encountered an anti-tank mine on their route. The mine detonated just before the vehicle reached it.
Both Monicken and the captain escaped with their lives due, in part, to the sandbags that lined the vehicle floor.
Monicken received several wounds to his face and shrapnel throughout his body.
Both men were treated by medics following the incident.
As a result of his injuries, Monicken was honorably discharged and returned to Wisconsin.
When Monicken received his discharge papers, he noted that his Purple Heart was not listed. He wrote several letters, and finally his Purple Heart arrived in a cardboard box.
Monicken was disappointed, however, that no certificate of authenticity was included.
“I’m so thankful,” Monicken said of Thursday’s ceremony. “I’ve been trying to get this done since I got out of the Army. It’s been like a thorn in my side that has festered for far too long.”
Monicken Hanson described her father as an honest and hardworking man of integrity who always cared for his family.
“Dad has been someone I have looked up to for a long time,” she said.
As she and her sister grew up, Monicken Hanson said they frequently asked their parents about how they grew up.
“But dad’s military time always passed by,” she said.
It wasn’t until she and her sister were adults, Monicken Hanson said, that they learned about their father’s war story and the situation surrounding his Purple Heart.
“This needs to be right and corrected. He has earned respect and honor,” she said. “He is a hero to our country.”