Dover Air Force veteran honored with 10 medals
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, left, recognizes a Dover war veteran, James Thurber, far right, in front of his family Thursday morning. (JOHN QUINN/Union Leader Correspondent)
DOVER - Veterans Day came early for a Dover family as an Air Force sergeant who was injured during the Gulf War was recognized Thursday with long-overdue medals.
James Thurber, who grew up in Rochester and served in the Air Force for a decade, was extremely touched at the gesture, especially since his family was able to see him get officially recognized even though he was medically discharged in 1994.
After being out of the military for 18 years, Thurber - who is now on full disability - received 10 medals and ribbons for his actions in the Air Force while serving in Nevada and abroad during Operation Desert Storm in Saudi Arabia.
"It's quite an impressive list of medals," Chief Master Sgt. Michael Krall said.
Krall, who serves in the Air National Guard at Pease Tradeport, read the citations from two awards - Air Force Achievement Medals - Thurber earned between 1988 and 1992.
"During this time, he spent almost a year in foreign service in Saudi Arabia," Krall said, adding Thurber helped identify issues with the F-117A stealth fighter as a member of the 37th Tactical Fighter Wing.
As a result of Thurber's dedication, Krall said the unit was able to fly 679 combat missions during the Gulf War.
U.S. Sen. Jean Shaheen also recognized Thurber's wife, Dianne, a Dover native.
"When you serve, it's your family who also serves," Shaheen said.
While elected officials can help military members receive medals they've earned, it was not why Thurber first came to Shaheen's office, according to Sherri Pierce, special assistant for constituent services.
"He has come to our office for help with his disability rating with the VA," Pierce said, adding they were able to help Thurber receive 100 percent disability and recognize him for his service.
As a result of his injuries, which let him stay active only about four hours a day, Thurber said he lost his job at Lockheed Martin, had no insurance and the family eventually lost its home.
While Thurber's children - Jacqueline, 11, Alexis and Zachary, both 14 - were not born when he served in the Air Force, they all remember when the family lost their home in 2007.
"It's been a long fight," Thurber said, adding that as a result of Shaheen's efforts the family is getting back what it lost.
Shaheen said helping military personnel and presenting them with medals are some of the best things about being a senator.
"We are very grateful," Shaheen said as she credited Pierce, who also serves in the Air National Guard, for her diligence in tracking down Thurber's military medals.
While he received the awards on paper, Thurber said he never was presented the medals themselves, including: a Joint Meritorious Unit Award, his second Air Force Outstanding Unit Award for actions in combat, his third Air Force Good Conduct Medal, a National Defense Service Medal, a Southwest Asia Service Medal, an Air Force Overseas Long Tour Medal, an Air Force Longevity Service Award, an Air Force Non-Commissioned Officer Professional Military Education Graduate Medal and the Kuwait Liberation Medal from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
While the official holiday will occur Sunday, Veterans Day honors those who served and is celebrated on Nov. 11 in tribute to the end of World War I in 1918.
"I have no regrets for serving my country," Thurber said. "I would do it again in a heartbeat."
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John Quinn may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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