Jersey Shore vet receives service medals

PHOTO PROVIDED U.S. Army Sgt. Howard Steppe, right, finally receives his service medals earned in the Vietnam War, during a recent ceremony at the Jersey Shore Veterans of Foreign Wars from retired U.S. Army Maj. Galen Klobe, left. Steppe’s wife, Betty, stands between the veterans.

JERSEY SHORE — During a time when a lot of his peers were protesting the Vietnam War, burning draft cards or leaving the United States to avoid the draft, Howard Steppe demonstrated his patriotic duty by enlisting in the Army and fighting in the swamps and jungles of Central Vietnam.

Steppe, of Jersey Shore, recently received his service medals — 48 years after he earned them — in a ceremony at the Jersey Shore Veterans of Foreign Wars.

The medals were presented to Sgt. Howard Steppe by retired U.S. Army Maj. Galen Klobe, himself a Vietnam veteran, who lauded Steppe for his bravery, courage and a job well done.

The medals Steppe received include the Combat Infantry Badge, Parachute Wings, Bronze Star Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal, Vietnam Service Medal with four Bronze Service Stars, Army Good Conduct Medal, the United States Presidential Unit citation and the Republic of South Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit citation.

After enlistment, Steppe completed basic training and advanced infantry training and then volunteered for and completed parachute training. In mid-August 1967, he was assigned to D Co., 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry of the elite 173rd Airborne Brigade in the Republic of South Vietnam.

Only one of 20 soldiers serving in a combat zone actually saw combat.

Steppe, as a light weapons infantryman, was one of these.

His rifle company spent weeks at a time in the field. They had few of the amenities other soldiers in South Vietnam experienced. Very rarely did he or other paratroopers receive a cold beer, a warm shower, a hot meal, a candy bar or a newspaper. They wore the same field uniform for weeks at a time without a change.

With very few breaks, he and his company continually slogged through the jungles of Central Vietnam in search of the enemy. Contacts always were violent and within 40 or 50 yards.

Not once did Steppe shirk his duty. He fought in many small and two major enemy engagements, including the Tet Offensive in January 1968.

During his service in the field, 487 of his fellow paratroopers were killed in action.

Klobe, of Rauchtown, served as a rifle company commander in the 173rd Airborne Bridgade in Vietnam.

Dave Bower, of the Lock Haven Veterans Office, organized the service, which was narrated by Shawn MacMillan.