Sussex County Veteran presented with medal he never received 50 years ago for heroic service in Vietnam

Frank Bolen receives the Naval Commendation Medal at a ceremony inside the Veterans Treatment Court in Georgetown. (Photo: WGMD’s Rob Petree)

A Vietnam War Veteran and Sussex County resident was presented with a Naval Commendation Medal Thursday afternoon at the Veterans Treatment Court in Georgetown, an honor he was awarded 50 years ago but never received.

Delaware’s Senior U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) presented the medal to Frank Bolen, a Lance Corporal Vietnam War Veteran and the very first mentor for the Veterans Treatment Court in Georgetown.

Senator Carper’s Office was instrumental in helping Bolen receive the medal that recognizes his service and sacrifice in the military.

On April 7th, 1969 Cpl. Bolen’s platoon was conducting a patrol near Hill 383, south of the demilitarized zone, when the marines came under intense sniper and small-arms fire from a well-concealed hostile force, sustaining multiple casualties.

Reacting instantly, Lance Cpl. Bolen quickly positioned his men to effectively return fire upon the enemy. After marines had gained fire superiority, he fearlessly led his squad up the side of the hill to reach the wounded who were lying in a dangerously exposed location.

The Veterans Treatment Court was packed with Bolen’s family, friends, and Superior Court officials for the presentation and graduation of two veterans from the program.

“All I had was a peice of paper that I’d saved from 50 years ago,” Bolen said.

“It’s a day I never thought would happen,” Bolen said. “Thank you, thank you so much.”

“Every now and then we find that people who served on active duty never recieve the medals for which they earned, and time goes by and people forget,” Sen. Carper said. “And this is been 50 years this year.”

Senator Carper, also a U.S. Navy veteran of the Vietnam War, donated his military service ribbons to the Veterans Court to be displayed in the lobby’s shadow box alongside the service ribbons of those who successfully graduated the program.

“It was a wonderful day today,” Superior Court Judge Richard Stokes said smiling alongside his colleague and President Judge of the Superior Court, The Honorable Jan Jurden, both of whom are veterans.

“Judge Stokes, his team, the mentors, the Veterans Association, it’s a great collaboration and it’s doing a lot of good work,” Judge Jurden said. “I want to salute all those who are in the program and everyone who supports it.”

Bill Gay, mentor coordinator for the Sussex County Veterans Treatment Court, was on-hand for the ceremonies and said today was an important day for so many on the heels of the court’s fifth anniversary next month.

“We will have 49 graduates, 7 women and 42 men, who have graduated from the Sussex Veterans Treatment Court and to the best of our knowledge none of them have encountered a problem with the criminal justice system after graduation,” said Gay. “It’s a credit to the veterans enrolled and to the team who sometimes gets a call in the middle of the night, but always makes it work.”

The Veterans Treatment Court’s mission is to divert veterans, who meet strict requirements, from the traditional criminal justice system and provide them with the tools to lead a productive and law-abiding life.

Studies show that such collaborative courts enhance public safety, cut recidivism and are more cost effective than the typical manner of processing offenders.