KOSCIUSKO — Richard Allen Irwin, Etna Green, was honored as the June veteran of the month at the Kosciusko County Commissioners meeting Tuesday, June 26. After Veteran Affairs Officer Rich Maron read Irwin’s bio, Maron and the commissioners presented Irwin with a plaque.
Irwin was born May 10, 1948, to Dale and Arlene Irwin in Warsaw. He has four siblings: Don, Peggy, Keith and Nancy. The family lived in and around the Atwood area. Irwin attended school in Atwood until the school consolidated with Warsaw. He then attended school in Mentone, graduating with the class of 1966.
At that time the Irwin family moved to Talma. Irwin worked at Sun Metal until he was drafted into the army in October of 1967. Irwin completed basic training at Ft. Campbell, Ky., and AIT at Ft. Sill, Okla. After AIT, he was sent to Vietnam in March of 1968.
Irwin was stationed at Cameron Bay as a field observer, a position that required him to carry 200 lb. of equipment on his back. One might think this position would have kept him out of harm’s way, but that was not the case. Irwin would be awarded the Army Commendation Medal and the Bronze Star Medal for heroism in Vietnam. The Army Commendation Medal cited Irwin for “exceptional meritorious service in support of allied counter insurgency.”
While serving as a reconnaissance sergeant, he overcame extreme adverse conditions and managed to obtain consistently superior results through diligence and determination. His unrelenting loyalty, initiative and perseverance brought him acclaim, inspiring others to strive for excellence. His Bronze Star Medal with V Device was given in recognition for heroism in connection with military operations against an armed hostile force in the Republic of Vietnam.
On Nov. 14, 1968, Sergeant Irwin was helping fortify the Tactical Operations Center at Landing Zone Vera when an enemy round impacted nearby, seriously injuring one of his comrades. Exposing himself to enemy fire, Irwin ran the length of the base to secure medical aid for his wounded comrade and call for an evacuation helicopter to transport the soldier.
Irwin returned home from Vietnam on his 21st birthday, May 10, 1969. On May 24, 1969, Irwin had a blind date with Libby Faulkner. On that first date, Irwin asked Faulkner to marry him. Although she was shocked and did not give him an answer at that time, she went home and informed her mother that she had just met the man she was going to marry. Five months later, on Oct. 3, the two were married in Bourbon.
The Irwins settled in Etna Green and raised their family, which included three children: Laura, Christopher and Ashlee. Another son, Troy, was stillborn. They have been blessed with five grandchildren: Teddy, Ruby, Gavin, Allee and Declin.
Upon his return home from Vietnam, Irwin returned to work at Sun Metal, being promoted to plant manager, where he remained for five years. He then worked for a year on a chicken farm south of Warsaw and at Burket Elevator, working in the mill. He eventually started making deliveries for Tippe Pak, Burket, which took him all over the Eastern United States.
In 1982, Irwin’s health took a turn for the worse due to complications from the effects of Agent Orange. His brain tells his body to move, but his body does not respond. The nerve endings in his spinal cord are burnt off, resulting in Irwin being paraplegic.
“Freedom is never free,” Maron reminded those in attendance.