OGDEN — A hundred Utah Cold War veterans, whose service largely went unacknowledged in a war that was largely invisible, now have Cold War Victory Medals.
“I think it’s a great honor,” said Vietnam War veteran Larry Kerr, who along with his chapter of the Disabled American Veterans, organized the distribution of the medals Friday at the George E. Wahlen Ogden Veterans Home.
While the Cold War was an undeclared confrontation, veterans went through the motions of being in a war.
“Kennedy and the Russians were going at it tooth and nail,” Air Force veteran Tex Crawford said. “That little light up in the corner of our operations room indicated that we were at DEFCON 4. We thought we were going to war.”
Tension with the Soviet Union meant there was a constant threat of war. Crawford, who served in the Air Force from 1958 to 1966, worked radar operations scanning the skies for the enemy around the clock.
“We spent hours and hours watching our radar, especially in Canada, getting ready for whatever was coming,” Crawford said.
World War II, Korean War and the Vietnam War veterans were recognized with medals for their service, but not the men and women who served during the Cold War.
“We did lose ships and submarines to the Cold War,” Kerr said. “We lost aircraft and pilots due to the Cold War, and they never really got any recognition for that at all.”
Utah is the fourth state to offer the Cold War Victory Medal to its veterans. It’s given for honorable service in the U.S. military between 1946 and the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Air Force veteran Pat Crawford, no relation to veteran Tex Crawford, served just shy of 30 years in the Air Force. He was stationed all over the world. He was a ground equipment repairmen and technician but ended up serving in many capacities. He said receiving the medal meant a lot.
“I have to think about my wife and family and all the sacrifices they made more than me,” Pat Crawford said.
The Hill Air Force thrift shop stepped up with a $1,000 donation, and the Disabled American Veterans chipped in the other $500 to buy the 100 medals.
Congress first approved a Cold War service medal in 2001, but then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld declined to authorize it.
The idea of the Cold War Victory Medal began after Texas became the first state to authorize its own medal in 2013. Louisiana and Alaska soon followed suit.
Approximately 100,000 Utahns served in the military during the Cold War in various places, from Alaska to Germany to the Korean Demilitarized Zone, according to Kraig Thorne, senior vice commander of VFW Post 4918.
All the medals are paid for by donations from individuals and charitable organizations. The medals are made locally.
If you would like to make a donation, Kerr asks that you contact your local Disable American Veterans or Veterans of Foreign Wars office and tell them you would like to nominate a veteran for the Cold War Victory Medal and make a donation to pay for the medal. You can also contact Kerr at 801-776-4230.
Contributing: Viviane Vo-Duc
We're sorry, currently this live video stream is only available inside of Utah or an approved RSL broadcast territory.
We base your location on your IP address. Some providers IP addresses may show your location outside of the state, even though you are physically within the state boundaries. For more information about RSL on KSL, please see our FAQ.