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Navy Cross Awarded Posthumously Awarded

Navy Cross Awarded Posthumously Awarded

Cpl. Stephen E. Austin, 1st Battalion, 27th Marine Regiment was posthumously awarded with the Navy Cross July 21 for his bravery during the Vietnam War in 1968.

Commandant of the Marine Corps General Robert B. Neller presented the award to Austin’s daughter Neily Esposito and brother Allen Austin during the 50th anniversary reunion for 1st Battalion 27th Marine Regiment. The Navy Cross is the second highest valor award after the Medal of Honor.

Neily, who was born shortly after Austin deployed, never had the chance to meet her father physically, but developed a bond with him through stories told by his family and fellow Marines.

“If I had a choice, I would’ve loved to have met him, but I think this experience has helped me grow closer to him. Just meeting people that knew him or knew of him is so overwhelming,” said Esposito. “I wish I had a dad but being around all these people fills that void.”

Austin was killed June 8, 1968 in Quang Nam Province, during Operation Allen Brook. He was pinned down with his squad by an enemy machine-gun bunker. Austin, realizing that regrouping to another position to wait for an airstrike would result in more casualties, exposed himself to enemy fire to get close enough to throw a grenade into the bunker.

Wounded repeatedly by enemy fire, Austin continued to advance on the bunker. With the last bit of life remaining in him, Austin was able to throw a grenade up into the bunker slit to silence the enemy and assure a safe withdrawal of his platoon. The combination of rifle fire and the explosion of his own grenade resulted in Austin’s death.

When his body was recovered, a letter written the day before his death was found in his pocket. The letter highlighted the struggles Marines faced during the Vietnam War.

“On my birthday things didn’t go too good,” read the letter to his family. “One of my best friends who I met in Hawaii was shot twice in the stomach and he died the following afternoon. His name was Art Sinksen. I am going to write his parents a letter as soon as I go in to Battalion area. I am so sick of fighting I’ve seen and helped to many boys my age or younger that was wounded or dead. I thank the Lord each morning I get up.”

Austin never made it to battalion area and was never able to write the letter to Sinksen’s family. Like Sinksen and many Marines before him, Austin made the ultimate sacrifice for his brothers at arms.

“I think he exemplified many of the other Marines. Vietnam, there was a lot of bravery and courage that the media never really covered over here in the United States. It was really all negative publicity,” Allen said. “They never heard about the bravery and courage these men under fire showed and gave their lives for and that’s what he did, he gave his life for his fellow Marines.”

Since 1992, Allen has operated a website, honoring his brother and his fellow 1/27 Marines. The website played a major role in Austin being nominated for the Silver Star, which was upgraded to a Navy Cross after the Office of the Secretary of the Navy learned of Austin’s bravery.

Though 50 years have passed since Austin’s brave act, Allen is excited to know that his brother’s bravery will never be forgotten.

“It’s overwhelming. I’m so proud of him,” Allen said. “he’s finally recognized for what he did that day.”

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Antonio P. Muyco - May 5, 2020

It’s shame for a Brave Marine to be recognized too late for his unselfish heroic actions to save his fellow Marines. God bless you. US Army Vietnam Veteran

Jerry Krajewski - May 5, 2020

A shame it took 50 years. Changes need to be made. Fellow Marine, RVN 66-67.J

Sgt Robert L Sisson - May 5, 2020

Harry we could meet in Bentleyville at the BOOMTOWN GRILL 704 Main St. That is Rt 917. That is about 1/2 between you and me. Right now I have some medical stuff going on. With any luck I should be good to go with in the next 2-4 weeks. I will keep my eye out for you on this web sight and get in touch when I am well. Sgt Bob Sisson

Harry - May 5, 2020

Wow Shawn!You hit a homerun there.I watched the first episode of the “Leftest” Ken Burns doc that was enough for me! Harry

Harry - May 5, 2020

Marianna Pa.Small coal town south of the city of Washington.Just say the word and we’ll get together.We could meet somewhere around Washington.Harry

Shawn - May 5, 2020

Semper Fi Cpl Austin, from the article: “I think he exemplified many of the other Marines. Vietnam, there was a lot of bravery and courage that the media never really covered over here in the United States. It was really all negative publicity,” Allen said.” I think this line goes to show that fake news did not suddenly appear during the current Presidency. It’s existed for a long time. If anyone has watched Ken Burn’s Vietnam special you will notice that he has as many war protestors and draft dodgers in the series (perhaps more) as he has war veterans. Why? Because these are his heroes… If this offends someone because this appears political I don’t regret saying it. We need to start getting back that spine in this country where people didn’t have to walk around on eggshells for fear of ‘offending someone’. Semper Fi, over and out…..

Steve Scassero - May 5, 2020

Cpl. Austin and men like him are why we don’t lose. As a former Soldier and Marine Reservist, I met and was trained by many like him. My father was a member of the 5th Engineer Bn.,5th Marine Division and his company was attached to the 27th Marines during the battle for Iwo jima where he earned his Purple Heart, but saw many of his buddies die. He was modest about his contribution, but not theirs. I think of people like Cpl. Austin from the War for Independence to today and often give them a silent thanks for the life I’ve led. I will raise a glass to him soon.

Sgt Robert L Sisson - May 5, 2020

Harry where in Washington County did you say you lived???? If I am ever out that way I would like to meet you.

Jerry Rowley - May 5, 2020

I was on Allen Brooke when this happened, even the battalion comander walked away decorated. I had a buddie die who saved his buddies on a mine sweep detail later and he got no award. He was not liked by the leadership… a good Marine in the field and in trouble on liberty, the hallmark of a real Marine. Then we have the John Kerry’s who spend a short time in country and leave highly decorated. No wonder Americans have a distorted view of heroism.

John S. Lamb - May 5, 2020

Msgt Alexander, I was with the 5th Marine Regiment in Viet Nam 67-68-69. During all that time I never knew anyone who fought naked. Whether in the air providing ground cover or in supply in Colorado it took all of us to get the job done ! When your boots rotted off you were issued a new pair; you were assigned weapons, ammunition , communication equipment , & others to get the assignments completed ! ( The most important person in a restaurant is the one who cleans the toilet when needed. ) I have had men die in my arms doing things for which other received credit . Having read the accounts it is my personal belief that Cpl Austin should have been awarded The Medal of Honor as he, along with countless others in all branches of the service , raised their right hand & took an oath , on which their is no expiration date – we are dedicated and committed to this country. It is truly unfortunate that it took so long for his sacrifice to be recognized.

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