Michael L. Mann’s 7-year-old granddaughter, Alexandria, summed it up best.
“He was a really good Army man,” she said.
Indeed, he was. And on Thursday, Feb. 9, almost 46 years after Mann returned home from Southeast Asia, his country conferred upon him the decorations making it official.
U.S. Rep. Mike Bost (IL-12) met Mann and his family at O’Fallon City Hall to bestow upon him the medals he earned while serving in Vietnam, including a Bronze Star Medal with a V.
“He is one of the many brave men and women who have risked their lives on behalf of our great nation. I cannot begin to express my gratitude for his heroic service,” Bost said.
Unofficially known as the Bronze Star, the medal is awarded to members of the United States Armed Forces for heroic achievement, heroic service, meritorious achievement and meritorious service in a combat zone. The Bronze Star with a “V” device is awarded for valor during combat actions against an enemy force. It is the fourth-highest award for military combat bravery.
Also in Mann’s shadow box were the Air Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Combat Infantry Badge 1st Award, Marksman Badge with Rifle Bar and the Vietnam Service Medal with one bronze service star.
“You know, you and the others that served in this war didn’t always come home to the best treatment. You deserve so much more,” Bost said.
Keeping spirits high, Mann got Bost laughing with his response.
“Yeah, well, we were winnin’ when I left,” Mann said.
Mann, who now lives in O’Fallon, was drafted into the Army when he as 19. He served in the infantry from 1969 to 1971, attaining the rank of corporal.
“As many who know him and served with him have said, nobody deserves this medal more than Cpl. Mann,” said Bost.
After Mann returned home he went into law enforcement, serving is with St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department from 1979 to 2005.
“I was honored to present this medal on behalf of a grateful nation,” Bost said. “Southern Illinois is lucky to have Cpl. Mann as part of our community, where he continued his service in law enforcement. We are proud and we thank him.”
Mann was thankful as well, but also offered some advice to his congressman.
“Don’t ever bring the draft back … I think volunteers fight better,” he said. “We should keep volunteers, (and) if they can’t get enough, maybe they should cancel the war due to lack of interest.”